Gods and Dragons
The Dragon of Time Book 1
by Aaron Dennis
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Gods, Dragons, a mercenary with a blade and no memory of his past…. The world of Tiamhaal is alight in war. Men ruled by kings slay their opposition in the name of their God, but there are others who claim the Gods are little more than scorned Dragons of ages past. Scar has come to find the truth, but is the truth an absolute certainty, or is it just the skewed memory of a forgotten kingdom?
They remained silent for a time. Marching in cadence created the sounds of heavy boots grinding rocks or shrubs into the hard soil. A scarce few puffs of white clouds way up high in the blue sky floated off to the west. There was no shade and no trees.
Scar really wanted to get back to the old discussion; Gods and Dragons. He did not want to upset his friend, but the burning question yet remained unanswered. He cleared his throat once, but his own self-absorption prevented him from formulating the proper query. After a moment’s pause, he finally gave in to his nagging heart.
“I hate to bring this up again,” he chuckled, “but if every tribe has specific blessings they bestow to warriors, who believe, then how can anyone attest that any one God is the real God?”
“I hate that you bring this up again, too,” Labolas answered, curtly.
For a time, he did not touch the subject, but it was a long road, and he knew the mysterious fellow was only trying to comprehend a very mysterious world. In fact, it was that issue—trying to understand the ploys of God, or Gods—that led to war. Labolas wanted to see peace in his lifetime, yet he believed that was only possible if everyone, or mostly everyone, acquiesced to the belief of only one God.
“I guess I can’t attest to anything save experience,” the archer broke the silence after some twenty minutes. “In my life I have seen the blessings of many tribes. I don’t claim to have the real answer. I cannot possibly hope to comprehend the designs of a deity. All I can say is that every tribe does receive some blessing, a very specific blessing according to his tribe, and the intensity of that blessing is usually predicated on faith. Sometimes it is predicated on other virtues.”
Scar tried to let the words sink in, make some sense, but he still felt something was missing. He looked at the dusty ground without saying a word while he kept pace with the seemingly tireless captain, not that his own constitution was lacking.
“Where do I fit in? I guess that’s my real issue, here.”
Labolas nodded almost imperceptibly, saying, “Again, I can’t hope to comprehend that either, Brandt. I wish I could shed more light on your plight.”
“You made a rhyme,” Scar chuckled.
Labolas also laughed. Their comradery did ease the tension of such a heated topic. As the blazing sun continued to beat down upon their forms, Labolas struggled to assist; he tried to keep his own self-reflection at bay and simply asses the discussion objectively.
“Listen,” he started. “Brandt, it’s everyone’s lot in life to deduce how they fit in. I don’t think any man can give you that answer. You will have to acquiesce to Kulshedra. He is God of Truth after all.”
Scar rubbed the sweat off his head. He grumbled about the heat as they marched their way up a steady incline. The land was on a slope. After some time, the two came to the descending side of the slope and towards the river.
“I don’t see why I should acquiesce to anyone. None of them have blessed me,” Scar sighed.
“You heal quickly. You are tireless. Hell, you were set on fire and have recovered. How can you claim to have no blessing?” Labolas countered in a tone of reverence.
The mercenary nodded, his heavy mood slowly dispelling. “These are not blessings of Kulshedra.”
“No, I suppose they are not.”
“There are thirteen tribes,” Scar started up again. “Each with its own territory, people, and blessings, but you say there was once another kingdom. Was there a tribe of Alduheim?”
Labolas admitted he had never heard of such a tribe. The kingdom of Alduheim was ancient and little of it was known. It was a while yet before he said anything else.
“Gilgamesh is the man to answer your questions. He is much closer to Kulshedra, much closer to truth.”
“If you don’t mind indulging me further.”
“I had asked if the paladins wage war against each other.”
“I believe only Paladins of Severity only ever attack other paladins. Severity is, after all, all they know.”
“An abysmal existence to want to extinguish everyone simply over a lack of conformity.”
Labolas’s eye twitched. He was unsure if Scar was speaking allegorically. “Do you refer to the tribes wanting everyone to fall under one deity?”
Scar had not made that connection and was only speaking existentially. The mercenary was almost shocked by his friend’s question.
“I, I’m not sure, now that you mention it. I had only meant that those paladins appear, well, severe,” Scar replied and laughed. “To change the subject.”
“Please,” Labolas interrupted.
“Yes, well, I’m wondering what role Alduheim is to play in this worldwide conflict. I mean, am I to side with Kulshedra? Simply be an ally? Who will my people be? There is, this is just too much…I don’t even know who I am!”
“Peace, Brandt,” Labolas consoled and placed a hand on his friends wrist. “You should not even hope to force these issues nor try to find all the answers in one day. Let the course of life find its way to you. Besides, you are whoever it is you want to be. Perhaps, you cannot recall who you are for that very reason. In fact, how do you know that you are not part of Kulshedra’s great design? You may well have been sent here by him.”
Scar managed a weak smile. In spite of his prowess in battle, Labolas was quite the philosopher. The mercenary was impressed and was very glad to have such a friend. He thought back to their first meeting during the defeat of Lovenhaad.
“Kings don’t rule alone, my friend,” the Kulshedran smiled, softly. “Take Gilgamesh, he has many advisors and counselors.”
“He does?” Scar was astonished.
“Well, sure,” Labolas chirped. “No one can rule a country alone.”
“But I thought he spoke directly to Kulshedra. Why would such a man need the advice of subjects? Would they not be fallible?”
That was a chord, which rang true, and for a moment, Labolas did not have an answer. “Well, I,” he stammered. “Ah,” he said as though an insight had come unto him. “I can’t say for sure, as I have never asked, but it is a safe assumption that they advise him on matters of strategy, conflict resolution, trade, and local governance. Certainly, he does not plague Kulshedra with insignificant queries.”
Scar nodded with understanding. All these blasted worries. It would have been simpler to just be a mercenary for hire, but it looks like that is not who I am. Perhaps, I am meant to be king. My concerns for these people grow every day. His internal dialogue gave way to recent events in Usaj.
After being accosted by the Dracos, he had wandered into the country ruled by Zoltek; they were all people concerned only with attacking the other tribes. They truly had no allies and did not seem to hope for any kind of peace. Their resolution was one of bloodshed. They were all guided by the principle of severity…I think there is more to these paladins than just confusion. I think they may be on to something…Gods and Dragons…Gods and Dragons.
The men continued trudging in the heat for hours. No more words were uttered for a long time. Before the sun set, and as a cooler wind finally started to blow, they followed the Iles north and came to a large bridge built over the river. Immense, brown, rectangular pylons supported the structure. Water rushed against the Kulshedran architecture. At that spot, the river was nearly a hundred feet across, and the lines of sediment made it clear that it crested, at one time or another, at nearly three hundred feet.
“We’re not far now,” Labolas broke the silence. Scar said nothing. He was intently gazing at the bridge. The dark, brown stone blended in nicely with the dark, blue river and the dusty, brown soil. There was a bit more vegetation in that vicinity, due no doubt to the river.
“A fine bridge, no?”
“Such a marvelous structure,” Scar replied.
“Discovered the love of architecture all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know that it’s sudden,” he retorted. “I feel as though people who can raise such structures ought to be able to find a way to negotiate peace, bridge the gap, so to speak. There are better things to do than fight.”
Labolas pursed his lips and nodded nearly imperceptibly, adding, “The architects have indeed erected magnificent constructs, but peace, like the bridge, must be laid one stone at a time.”
Scar mused over a life free of violence. He tried to think about whether he held any talents or skills besides mowing down enemies. There was nothing in his memory of the sort. To the best of his knowledge, he was just a fighter.
The mercenary smiled for a moment then started to cross the bridge. “What’s Eresh like?”
Labolas marched alongside him, and as he looked over the rail to the raging river below, he replied, “A military town. Mostly everyone there is a soldier. It is so close to Juhir, a town on the Satrone-Sudai border, that it requires some extra regulations. Though the people of Gyo are allies, we always protect our borders.”
“People of Gyo?”
“We call them Gyosh.”
“Gyosh? Like a Gyosh warrior?”
“Gyo is the God of…?”
“The sun…they say.”
“Yet, you are allies.”
“That is correct,” Labolas struggled for a moment to provide an explanation to a question Scar was sure to ask. They were both on the other side of the bridge by then. “It is said that Gyo, God of the Sun, believes that both Kulshedra and Khmer, while not true Gods, are bearers of truth and life respectively, and as such, their people must be of good will.”
“But you are at war with Khmer,” Scar interrupted.
“Indeed, which often strains our Gyosh relationship, but the agreement between Gilgamesh and Munir, their sultan, is so long as they don’t hinder or help either of us against each other, they will support our struggle against, say, Zoltek.
“So, Gilgamesh is at war with Zoltek and the leader of Khmer?”
“His…or her…? The leader of Khmer, we do not know if it is male or female, but it is called Sahni, and yes. Gilgamesh is at war with Zoltek, like everyone, and with Sahni. Our real allies in all this are the Dracos and Scultonians, but even the latter is occasionally disconcerting.”
“Followers of Scultone, God of Death.”
“This gets more and more convoluted,” Scar complained.
“Welcome to war, my friend.”
The Dragon of Time Book 2
With the death of Kulshedra, Dragon of Truth, it has been revealed that Scar, the mercenary, is in fact Sarkany, the Dragon Slayer, a creature fashioned for the sole purpose of purging the Dragons from the world of Tiamhaal, yet such a thing is not so simple.
Kings and queens yet war amongst one another. They, too, lie, connive, and coerce, and so, Scar and his friends must find a way to persuade those few, benevolent rulers to band together.
In the midst of peace talks and dead Dragons, those still in the worship of the beasts grow more powerful. Some of them even doubly praise their oppressor in an effort to wield more magic.
Now, united with his friends, Scar sets his gaze upon a hopeful horizon, but is strength in numbers sufficient to keep the Dragons from completing their machinations?
Pressure wracked Scar’s body. A piercing whistle rattled his brain. His muscles pulled away from his bones, and he struggled to breath, to open his eyes, but there was such a glare all around him. The ringing in his ears subsided, and as his vision cleared, he witnessed an expanse of something akin to glowing, orange terracotta; light spilled from the cracks in the ground, and above him, a low sky of golden fire sparked and crackled.
“What are you that defiles Edin?!” a raspy voice demanded in a tone like raging infernos.
Whipping about in an effort to behold the Dragon, Scar caught sight of shimmering, gold scales; a snake-like body undulated from within the oppressing sky. “I am Sarkany, the Dragon Slayer!”
“There is no such thing!”
“There is. I am here to cleanse the world of your kind, Dragon.”
“You are but a fool, a machination of the Gods.”
“No! I am more than that; I am the harbinger of change. Prepare yourself, beast, your end draws near.”
He doubted himself, though; apart from a clawed foot of gold scales poking from the burning sky, he had not seen the entirety of Gyo. Scar gripped his blade tightly, regulated his breathing, and spread his feet for balance. A gout of flames large as a home exploded from overhead. There was no way to dodge, and cringing, Scar braced himself for an early demise, yet there was no heat, no impact, only a blinding flash. Once it subsided, he witnessed something miraculous; there was a sparkling barrier surrounding his form; it was the same as the power Gilgamesh had wielded during their duel.
“What’s this? You manipulate the powers of my brethren? How?!” Gyo thundered.
“I don’t know,” Scar whispered in disbelief. Could it be? He gazed at the glowing gem of Kulshedra, and taking a long inhalation, he focused on a minute vibration, which flowed through his entire being. From it, he forced his attention upon his armor, and the steel plate from his chest expanded, unleashing more plates until he was covered as Gilgamesh was. Confidence filled his bones. “Come at me, Dragon. Show me the might of Gyo!”
His voice was unfamiliar to him, metallic. Another burst of flame from the sky forced the warrior to shut his eyes.
“Let us see how you handle the sun itself,” the Dragon raged.
A maw protruded from the flames; it was a strange beast with thick whiskers, a mammalian snout, and a bushy beard, yet the razor sharp teeth bearing down upon the warrior parted; Gyo unleashed another gout of flame. Closing his eyes, Scar ran forwards to strike the Dragon’s maw. No sooner had his sword vibrated in his grip from the impact, that Gyo curled over himself and swiped his tail. The blow sent Scar, barrier and all, sailing and skidding. Reaching out at the hot ground to halt, the Dragon Slayer scrambled to his feet in time to see the great, shining Gyo swimming towards him. Spinning to the side, Scar clipped the beast’s opened mouth, cutting through his cheek.
Gyo hissed like hundreds of exploding geysers, yet he curled his serpentine body again, gripped the man in his rear talon, thus shattering the barrier in a glimmering display, and immediately started an ascent into the flaming sky. It was evident Gyo was a fiercer Dragon than his brothers, Zmaj and Kulshedra, and Scar feared the flames raging over Edin. Fighting the pressure from a speedy flight, he braced his boot against a massive thigh, slashed as he twisted his body, and sliced through golden armor. The injury near the Dragon’s abdomen halted the beast for a second, and Scar capitalized by thrusting his blade deep into the wound and twisting. The Dragon dropped the warrior, and he plummeted back to the terracotta.
Looking up, he saw only flames. “Where are you, Dragon?!”
From landing on hand and knees, he righted himself and spun around in time to receive another gush of fire. Unable to erect a barrier in time, the agonizing heat charred his skin, but before severe injury was done, Gyo took him by the legs and flew just above the ground, scraping the warrior along the way. Such rage and fury welled from within the giant, he screamed and jammed his blade into the ground; the act freed him from the Dragon’s grasp, but as Gyo flew over him, he struck him across the helmet with his tail, and once more, the Dragon of the Sun vanished into the sky.
The bladesman stumbled, panting, waiting for his body to heal, waiting for the Dragon to reappear. A tingle accosted his spine, and he looked up to see spread jaws ready to end him. With a mighty, war cry, Scar focused on the power of Kulshedra; an explosion of energy propelled him and his blade ever upwards, through the monster’s palate, through his skull, and as the once ferocious Gyo crumpled like wet rope, Scar careened from the sky amidst shattered scales and into the mass of golden mist swirling away from the dead Dragon.
Writhing around the disintegrating innards, Scar felt the pressure of Edin’s rupture. With the beast dead, and its soul entering the gem, the whole of the Dragon’s realm shattered, leaving Scar in a heap.
The Dragon of Time Book 3
Dragons have posed as Gods, but the Dragon Slayer has come to Tiamhaal bearing retribution. Sarkany, avatar of Eternus, the Dragon of Time, known to his friends and enemies as Scar, has slain four Dragons; Kulshedra, the Dragon of Truth, Zmaj, the Dragon of Destruction, Gyo, the Dragon of the Sun, and Drac, the Dragon of fire, but there are yet many beasts left. Scheming and concocting, the capricious beasts grow in power as their brethren fall. Their goal; to once again walk Tiamhaal in the flesh. Scar must gather his friends to rebuild an old kingdom, thus alighting the Dragon Wars anew.
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About the Author
Dennis has been writing for 8 years and has accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time. Apart from writing and creating some wonderful stories, he learned editing from working with Chuck Sambuchino. His creative skills are easily recognized in books like War and Glory where scifi and horror are mixed, or books like Cayneian, where fantasy and horror are mixed, but he also portrays a great many psychological and philosophical issues throughout his writing.
Producers can check his list of titles at his Kirkus proconnect page.