The Dragons of Sierra

Will a new menace alter the conflict between magicians and augmented humans?

It is a time of conflict. A never-ending war between magicians and augmented humans known as The Gath. Now, a new menace threatens both races.

Original art licensed through Shutterstock. Titling by author

A menace from the sky, created by the refugees living in the Cylindrical Moon. This is the prologue to a novella (still in progress) that will be part of the MagicLand Chronicles, a set of stories set in the timeline of my debut novel, MagicLand.

Dear Freeland:

I am writing to you in the desperate hope that this ancient pencil on paper somehow survives my journey if something happens to me. I will seal this note in a glass bottle and hope for the best! You already know how I got it to you if it is in your hands.

As you know, I befriended a Gath a year or so ago, and he agrees with you that the beasts we have observed lingering over the mountains do not come from the domain of the animal kingdom as we know it.

He claims they are from the cylindrical moon, of all places, that vast megastructure in the sky where legions of another race are said to be hiding and creating beings far different than any known to earth. I have never believed that story, despite your insistence. I thought the people who lived there were simply escaping the wars. Ha! Wars. What a joke. “Exterminations” is a better word, no?

Anyway, Moses and I saw two of the beasts today. Perhaps my mind is changing. They are amazing creatures, Freeland, with wingspans that seem to cover half the sky. But they spread horror. The acid they spit from their throat can melt entire mountains. Whatever beauty and grace we can see from these wondrous flying creatures become one’s doom unless one is lucky enough to avoid the monsters’ glare.

We observed such a thing today. A small band of sorcerers was attempting some trick. I can’t say what, because we were viewing from a safe distance, a bluff above, and from the mouth of a small cave. They had formed a small circle. About ten of them, I think, and they looked to be forming their circle on the perimeter of a series of small burning fires that drew its own glowing ring.

The sorcerers’ circle became a line as they fanned out, and the flames rose vertically into the sky, as high, I would say, as a dragon can fly. “Were they summoning the beasts?” I wondered. Such a strange thing. Why would someone do such a thing?

Moses and I huddled together as we watched. We were certain that we were on the brink of observing a slaughter. We heard the heavy thud of wings pass waves of energy across the snowcapped peaks above us. For a moment I thought I saw a cloud of smoke explode off the side of one of the mountains as a dragon (I don’t know what else to call it) flew over its jagged slopes.

That is when I saw the sorcerers’ magic. The tall, thin flames concentrated into what I can only describe as a stream of tightly wound flames resembling a fiery, coiled rope extending into the sky, each whipped toward the dragon as if a hand on the ground was directing a lash.

I guess they were attempting to knock the dragon down. I don’t know, Freeland, what they were thinking, but the dragon was having none of it. It was completely unfazed by the wizardry. Even when a lashing rope of fire managed to strike the beast, the dragon seemed to drink in the flame as if receiving sustenance.

Soon enough, the dragon was accompanied by several more flying beasts that formed their own circle as they flew in unison above their supposed tormentors. The radius of the beasts in flight stretched across the sky. Then, one of them dove toward the sorcerers and howled a terrifying matrimony of tenor and baritone mixed within a screech that sent a deathly shudder through me. You and I have experienced much together, so you can probably well imagine.

I was able to see the dragon in some detail. Each wing begins as a thin band of flesh that expands into two connected sails that are longer than the beast’s body. The beast itself is dark green and reptilian, covered in scales, and crowned by a head of flowing grey hair intermingling with long spikes of flesh that flex with each motion of the monster’s long neck. The mouth is a fearsome thing, carrying what from our distance looked like multiple rows of canines.

I am thankful that you did not witness, Freeland, how the men stood boldly as if awaiting their execution, and that is what they received. The beast blasted them with something that looked like clear water, but when it struck the men, they perished as if they were sandcastles dissolving in a sort of impossibly instantaneous erosion.

Only one dragon carried out the attack. It hovered in the air over the helpless but boldly awaiting men, flapping its wings, as it curled its neck, then thrust its head forward and spat its acid at each victim.

The dragon then flew into the circle of his companions and led them in flight beyond the peaks toward the western ocean.

I will try to reach Moria, Freeland, but I can’t promise that you won’t find this letter instead of me. The journey is long, and we can’t transport our bodies there because of some dastardly energy shield, or some such, that the Gath have invented to prevent such travel. So the journey will be on foot.

I will be bringing my Gath friend Moses with me, who has turned against his own people and renamed himself after a forgotten Old Earth prophet. Treat him well if he arrives without me, Freeland. The fate of Moria may depend on it.

— Your friend, Tranquilina Dela Peña Sobreviela

This story is part of The MagicLand Chronicles: Short stories related to my debut novel, MagicLand, but with different characters and plots.