Be careful what you ask for...
Drake Standralson is granted a gift by the Chaos god as a reward. Drake rashly says, "I want to be a Mage. The most powerful Mage that ever was."
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The Chronicles of Amberdrake
"Be Careful What You ask For-"
In the north of the Darendian Empire, the small frontier town of Chanders sat in the spring sun, looking remarkably like a wart on the plain. There were few buildings outside the high wooden walls, and only one of the great oaken gates was open. There was no wagon traffic expected today, and the locals only needed one gate for their use.
Drake Standralson ran through the gate and out into the clearing that had been maintained for the archers until just a few short years ago. The border of the wilderness had been pushed back, and now Chanders sat safely within the confines of the empire. Drake ran, glancing back to see if he was being followed, and stumbled over the ruts in the road.
A thin, high voice shouted, "I'm going to get you, Drake!" from behind him. Before he could regain his feet, his little sister, Maris, was upon him, pummeling his back with her small fists.
"Maris, stop. You're going to hurt yourself," Drake said as he laughed.
"I'm going to hurt you, you big bully. This is my best dress. And now it's ruined!" Maris stood away from her big brother, and indicated her dress with both hands. "It took me all winter to sew it, and you had to go and push me into the fountain."
"It'll dry, Maris. It's only water," Drake said as he grinned. He loved all his sisters, but they tended to be a pain in the butt. Especially now that Maris had started noticing boys.
Maris scowled and snapped, "It's wool, Drake! It might shrink!" She tried to kick him, but he rolled away laughing. She turned away and returned to the city, leaving him sitting in the road as he chuckled.
"Hey, clear off," a voice called from behind Drake. "This is a road, not a bench!" Drake looked over his shoulder to find the speaker riding toward him slowly. He had plenty of time to get out of the man's way. "Who are you, the village idiot?" the man asked as he came closer.
"Piss off! I am no idiot. Who are you?" Drake snarled back. He was a cocky brat with a quick temper, and all but no manners.
"I'm a messenger from Emperor Galerson," the man said with a hint of anger in his voice. "Where can I find the Laird?"
Drake suddenly wasn't so cocky. "Laird Colbert is in the town hall, Sair," he said as he bowed and backed away from the road, giving the messenger a wide berth. You can never tell what a powerful man might do.
The messenger rode on, ignoring Drake except to shake his head slowly. When he had disappeared through the gates, Drake walked cautiously in behind him. Old Stranber, the day guard, was sitting on his bench, carving a chain from a branch with a tiny knife. He didn't even look at Drake as he spoke.
"Ain't you never gonna learn to keep that fool mouth of yers shut?" Stranber asked in a sour tone.
Drake was momentarily embarrassed, but he recovered quickly. "He called me an idiot. I don't have to take that from no one. I'm sixteen, a man grown, and entitled to some respect." Drake tried to puff up his chest and look grown-up, but only succeeded in making himself look more ridiculous.
"Yer a snot-nosed brat, that's what you are," Stranber said with the scowl that he reserved for recalcitrant boys. "Men don't pull pranks on their sisters and act the fool in front of strangers. Now get home a'for I take my belt to ya, like yer Pa should." Stranber continued to whittle even though his eyes were on Drake.
Drake considered smart-mouthing back at Stranber, but the fact that he had taken his belt to Drake's backside a time or two in the past kept his mouth shut. Instead, he took off, running home behind Maris.
Maris was standing in front of their house when he arrived, crying to their father about his prank. Standral Emverson focused an angry gaze on his son and just stared, not saying a word.
"Pa, now don't go getting mad," Drake said, holding his hands in front of himself, palms down in a placating gesture. "She's just wet. That's all." Drake was still afraid of his father's temper. And rightly so.
Standral just continued to glare as his eldest child walked up. "Go inside, Maris," he said softly. "Drake and I have something to discuss." Standral was unfastening his belt and pointing toward the woodshed. Maris gave Drake an insulting smirk, then disappeared into the house.
Drake went to the shed with his head hung low. I'm too old for this! How can my father embarrass me like this?
His father said, "Drop 'em, Drake. It's past time for you to stop acting like a little boy," as soon as the door closed.
Drake had reluctantly begun to comply when the ground shook violently, throwing Drake and Standral to the ground and spilling the stacks of firewood onto both of them.
"What in the name of all of the Gods is that?" Drake asked in a bewildered tone.
"I don't know, son, but it ain't good." Standral was pushing his way out of the shed and looking about. "Into the house. Fast." He led the way, not worrying about his disobedient son. The boy was stubborn and immature, not stupid.
Drake ran into the house behind his father and closed the door. He heard his father ask, "Sarandas, are you all right?" as he helped his mother up from the floor. Then the ground shook again, throwing them both back to the floor in a pile of arms and legs.
"Standral, what is it? What's happening?" Sarandas asked as she clung to her husband and pulled Maris and two smaller girls in close. "What's doing this?"
Drake was still by the door and saw an enormous shadow cross the sun. He stuck his head outside and saw the figure of a gigantic man towering above the walls of the city. His head was at least fifty cubits above the ground, and he had a beard down to his belt. That has to be a God!
"Mother, Father, it's a God. A big one!" Drake struggled out of the house and ran, tottering every time the ground shook, to get a better look. He ignored the calls of his parents to come back. A God isn't something you see every day.
* * *
Ordendershandaram, the God of Order, stomped past the puny human town. It was an anthill to him, and of as little consequence. His archenemy, Kaysandershandaram, the God of Chaos, was waiting. This time he will fall!
Kaysandershandaram stood on the edge of the clearing, waiting. Ordendershandaram was a dangerous adversary, and it would take all his skill and power to defeat him.
The two grappled like wrestlers, each exerting all his might to overthrow the other. Lightning bolts and thunder rocked the plain, shattering trees and scorching the town walls where they hit. Ordendershandaram threw Kaysandershandaram, causing an earthquake that knocked down buildings and collapsed part of the town walls in Chanders.
Drake was outside the city by then, and ran cheering toward the victor. This is the most exciting thing I've ever seen or even heard of!
Ordendershandaram saw the movement from the corner of his eye and turned, thinking it was some trick by Kaysandershandaram. When he saw that it was just a puny human, he bellowed in fury. His mighty hand swept up and came crashing down on Drake, flattening him into the plain. Another movement caught his eye and he turned back just in time to catch a mighty blow to the side of his head. Kaysandershandaram had recovered from being thrown and was attacking with all his might. Blow after blow fell, driving Ordendershandaram back away from the town and into the forest.
Ordendershandaram staggered, trying to regain his advantage against Kaysandershandaram, but Kaysandershandaram drove him back, step by step, until he finally had no choice but to withdraw. This battle went to Kaysandershandaram, but the eternal war would continue.
Kaysandershandaram watched Ordendershandaram disappear and was preparing to do the same when he noticed movement on one of the peripheral plains. It was the plain where human souls went when their flesh and blood shells died, and it was the soul of the foolish human who had distracted Ordendershandaram at the crucial moment. Curiosity prompted him to capture the soul and question it.
"Well, little creature, what did you think to accomplish by running out like that?" he asked, his great mental voice booming through the ethereal Drake. "Did you wish to die?"
Drake's soul was in no way less impressed by the God than his corporeal body had been, and he shimmered in fear. "Please, Great One, free me. I meant no harm or disrespect. I only wished to see what was happening," he whined, pleading with all of his being.
"You ran, yelling and screaming, into our fight. Did you think to help or interfere?" Kaysandershandaram asked as he watched Drake closely, curiosity making him more patient than normal.
"Neither, Great One. I was just excited, and I was cheering." Drake's soul was ashamed of his actions. How stupid do you have to be to run screaming at a God?
"It is of no consequence. Given the chance to be again, what would you like to be? I am feeling generous, and will return you to the world as anything you desire, as a reward for your help."
"I want to be like you!" Drake immediately answered, and immediately regretted his answer when the God laughed.
Kaysandershandaram was astounded by the creature's audacity. "That is impossible. Now try again, and this time make it reasonable. I grow weary of this."
"I want to be a Mage. The most powerful Mage that ever was. More powerful than Laird Dasnten." Laird Dasnten was the Master Mage of High Laird Colbert's Council.
"Very well," Kaysandershandaram answered. With a shrug of power, he transformed Drake into the most powerful Mage the world had ever seen. Unfortunately for Drake, he had not specified the most powerful human Mage the world had ever seen. For you see, most powerful Mage the world had ever seen before had not been human: He had been the dragon Dandarshandrake.
Drake's soul stretched and expanded, becoming large enough and strong enough to sustain the massive power he had asked for. Pain coursed through newly formed nerve pathways as a body formed to encase his soul. Wings stretched, and a massive tail sprouted behind him. His hands and feet grew claws, and horns grew from his head, crowning him like the emperor. Finally, scales grew to cover his hide. From somewhere deep in his heart, his human lust for wealth colored his body, patterning his scales with a hundred hues of gold.
Drake Standralson was now Amberdrake, the Golden Dragon. He fell heavily to the ground, stunned by the violence and pain of his transformation. He struggled slowly and painfully to his feet and regarded himself. As the full import of what he was seeing registered on his befuddled mind, he threw back his head and roared in anguish.
This wasn't what I wanted! his mind screamed, but his body just roared. I still wanted to be myself. Just a more powerful self. A Mage to strike fear in my enemies and inspire admiration from the girls. Now I'm a hideous monster!
But the God had vanished without a trace, so there was no one there to turn to.
Amberdrake slowly staggered back toward Chanders. The people who had witnessed his creation saw him coming and ran screaming for their homes, slamming and barring the city gates against him. Even his father turned, gathered up his sisters, and fled. He tried to enter the city, to once again go home, but he only succeeded in tearing the mighty gates from their hinges. Screams of terror still resounded through the city, and Amberdrake felt them like hot knives piercing his flesh. They're afraid of me! Even my parents slammed the door on me!
With another keening roar of pain and sorrow, Amberdrake launched himself into the air and flew away. His flight was clumsy, and he only barely managed to remain aloft, but his new body knew how to fly even if his human mind didn't. Some instinct led him west, into the mountains, and the abode of the dragons.
Days passed into a week as he searched without knowing what he was searching for.
As he flew, he began to take more notice of his surroundings. There was a scent in the air that he couldn't identify, though it caused a thrill to course through his body every time he caught a whiff. Sounds came to his sensitive ears that he felt he should recognize. He could feel his heart beating wildly in his breast, though he had no idea why.
The first indication Amberdrake had that there were other dragons nearby was when an elderly male made a diving pass at him, narrowly missing his left wing. "Who are you?" the dragon roared as he passed, and Drake was surprised to find that he understood the language of the dragons.
"I am Drake Standralson. Who are you? And watch where you're flying." Some of Drake's natural cockiness was re-exerting itself as he adjusted to his situation.
"You have a human name? What kind of dragon has a human name?" the old male asked as he again made a pass at Amberdrake, and again narrowly missed.
"I am what you see. I am Amberdrake. Now leave me alone." Amberdrake put himself into a shallow glide that let him land by a lake in the center of the mountains.
"I am Corandrake," the elderly male hissed. "What do you want here?" Corandrake spread his massive wings in the sun and hissed menacingly at Amberdrake.
"I am looking for my own kind. Something led me here. Now leave off. I am tired and in no mood to be bothered." Amberdrake stuck his muzzle into the water to drink and immediately stumbled back as another dragon emerged from the depths in a great fountain of water.
"What do you mean your own kind?" a distinctly feminine voice asked. "Don't you know where your kin are?"
"In Chanders. But they aren't my kin anymore. I have no kin. The God made me a dragon when all I wanted to be was a Mage." Some of his pain was seeping into his voice, and the other dragons heard it. "I asked to be the most powerful Mage the world had ever seen, and look what he did!" he said, rising onto his haunches and spreading his wings.
The female sat up on her haunches and regarded Amberdrake cautiously. "My sire was the most powerful Mage in history. He was Dandarshandrake. Perhaps you have heard of him? Humans called him the Purple Dragon of Luxand."
"Luxand?" Amberdrake thought for a moment. "The Luxandian Empire was destroyed more than twenty centuries ago. How old are you?" he asked in wonder.
"Thirty-nine centuries," she said matter-of-factly. As Amberdrake gaped in confusion, her voice took on an amused tone. "Don't look so surprised. Don't you know how long dragons live?" Now she seemed to be laughing at his lack of knowledge.
"I never thought about it. There are no dragons in the Darendian Empire that I know of. How long do dragons live?" he asked. He was curious in spite of himself. How long will I be like this?
Corandrake snorted in derision. "I have seen sixty-seven centuries. Dandarshandrake was one hundred and twenty centuries old when he decided to die. Others have been far older."
Amberdrake was stunned by this revelation. One hundred and twenty centuries? Twelve thousand years? Then the rest of what Corandrake had said registered.
"When he decided to die?" he asked. "What do you mean?"
The female answered. "There are not many things that can kill a dragon. Only time and boredom, or another dragon. Father died long ago. Mother said he just got tired of seeing the same old world over and over again."
Amberdrake was stunned by the implications of what he had just been told. Boredom and time? The only things I have to fear are boredom and time?
"Isn't there anything else to fear? Are dragons the ultimate power in the world?" he asked, looking at both of the dragons.
"You can fear me, human. I don't care what form you wear, or how you got that way. Humans are fodder. Not even fit to eat if there is anything else." Corandrake hissed menacingly from his rock, and mantled his great wings.
Draconian instincts took over and Amberdrake launched himself into the air just inches ahead of Corandrake. He beat his wings strongly, driving his body high into the air with Corandrake just feet from his tail.
"Turn and fight, human!" Corandrake bellowed. "This is the season. Fight for your right to mate, or withdraw and wither away." Corandrake was bellowing fire as he yelled at Amberdrake, and making dangerously close swipes at his wings with the barb on his tail.
"Fight? To mate? What are you talking about? I don't understand." Amberdrake was dodging every pass that Corandrake made. Finally, some instinct caused him to roll into Corandrake's pass and grapple with him.
"Let go you fool! You'll kill us both." Corandrake struggled and finally broke Amberdrake's hold. He glided away, but not before Amberdrake saw the massive slashes he had inflicted on Corandrake's back.
Corandrake made another, more cautious pass, his natural black and red coloring accented by the blood from his cuts. Amberdrake was momentarily confused by his return, but a raking blow from the massive black tail brought him back to the present.
Amberdrake took the initiative and attacked, surprising Corandrake. His tail scored a solid hit on Corandrake's hindquarters, knocking him sideways in the air. He rolled away before Corandrake could return the blow and dove straight down on him from the sun. The collision knocked both of them from the sky and they just barely managed to catch themselves before they hit the ground.
"What are you trying to do, kill yourself?" Corandrake panted from the lakeshore.
"No, I was trying to keep you from killing me. What was that all about?" Amberdrake was in better shape than Corandrake, but he was still winded.
"You truly don't know? Don't humans fight for the right to choose a mate?" Corandrake's voice was barely a whisper, though Amberdrake could not tell if it was due to fatigue or wonder.
"No. Not seriously. Why? Is that what this is all about?" Amberdrake was looking at Corandrake, but it was the female that answered.
"Yes, it was. I am Sahrendrake. Do you choose a mate?" She was changed somehow from moments before. Her beautiful green and gold scales were shining in the sun, and she exuded the tantalizing scent that had been drawing him for days.
"He did not win, Sahrendrake!" Corandrake shouted.
"Yes, he did. You hit the ground first, and he is still ready to fly." She punctuated her comment by launching herself into the air. Amberdrake again found himself acting instinctively and followed her into the sky. They flew high into the sky and Sahrendrake maneuvered coyly below him.
"I don't know what to do! I have never done anything like this before," Amberdrake said softly so that only Sahrendrake would hear him.
"Then let me be your guide." Sahrendrake maneuvered herself below Amberdrake. Instinct made him cling to her back and their mating began.
"For a beginner, you seem to have the idea," Sahrendrake said, then laughed as they fell. The ground was rushing toward them at an alarming rate when she struggled to get free. "Let go. You will kill us both if we go much lower."
Amberdrake immediately disengaged from her back and they both glided to the lakeshore. Corandrake was gone, and Sahrendrake sighed as she eased herself into the water. "Not bad for a first try. How many others will you try for?"
"Others? I don't understand," Amberdrake said, tilting his head to the side in puzzlement. "I thought we were mates now."
"Females only need to mate once to conceive. Males usually fight for the right to mate as many times as they can. Don't humans do it that way?" Sahrendrake was submerged with only her head above the water.
"No. Humans mate for life. One man, one woman. They mate a lot, but it is always with the same person." Amberdrake was confused. Other mates? Is she serious?
"You have a lot to learn, Amberdrake. I hope you find a teacher." She lunged up from the water and beat her wings steadily, flying away as fast as she could.
An elderly female glided to a landing beside him. "I am Frandendrake, Sahrendrake's mother. She gets this way when she is carrying." She paused to look him over carefully. "So, you are really a human, changed into a dragon by a God. This world is getting much more interesting." Then she launched herself into the air and flew away.
Amberdrake stayed in the valley, watching the other males fight and mate. He was learning bits and pieces of what it meant to be a dragon as the days passed, and finally flew away, leaving the competition behind. He had always wanted to see the world, and now he could. He flew straight into the rising sun, away from Chanders, and his old life.
* * *
Mellody was giggling hysterically as she looked at Rochelle. She gasped, "He ran, yelling at a God! Two of them!"
Drake looked at his wife and sighed. "It isn't that funny, Mel."
Rochelle was giggling just as hard and gasped, "Yes, it is!"
He looked at Saunder and received a wide grin. "Yes, my friend, that has got to be one of the, shall we say, least intelligent things I have ever heard of."
Drake looked embarrassed and said, "I'm not done yet."
Rochelle looked at him with tears of laughter in her eyes and asked, "There's worse?"
Loren Jones lives near Tampa, Florida. He married Pamela A. Willis in 1983 and they have stayed together to this time, and have three adult children. A US Navy veteran, Loren served as a nuclear reactor operator on attack submarines for six years before his honorable discharge in 1986. Loren makes his living as an instrumentation and controls technician and writes because the stories won't leave him alone.
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The Chronicles of Amberdrake Copyright © 2019. Loren K. Jones. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.
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A special note to TTB readers. All contents of this web site are copyright by the writers, artists or web site designer. If you discover any artwork or writing published here elsewhere on the internet, or in print magazines, please let us know immediately. The staff of Twilight Times Books feels very strongly about protecting the copyrighted work of our authors and artists.
Web site copyright © 1999, 2000 - 2019. Lida Quillen. All rights reserved.
Cover art © 2017 Brad Fraunfelter. All rights reserved.
This page last updated 03-31-19.
Twilight Times Books logo design by Joni.