Here’s the final sample chapter, Chapter 4. You can download the book from Amazon by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.
Chapter 4: An Unexpected Find
I didn’t know how to react to the beast that had somehow just spoken to me in my head. Up close, it was like a creature out of nightmares I’d never imagined possible. It looked even more terrifying than the demon cheetah I’d imagined Astravar might have sent hunting me.
The only lizard-like creatures I’d seen before were the newts and salamanders back in my former owners’ garden back home. I would chase them through the grass sometimes, never really intending to kill them – they didn’t look particularly appetizing, and so I’d release them and let them scurry back into the water, and then I’d go back to chasing butterflies instead.
But I’d seen crocodiles on television, with their macabre grins and ability to lurch out at people from the water. This beast was like a crocodile, except worse. She had sharp teeth along the side of her mouth, eyes that glowed bright yellow like miniature suns, huge front-loaded nostrils that didn’t just steam but smoked, a breath that stank like rotting meat, and this strange fire burning at the back of her throat whenever she opened her mouth.
Not to mention her sheer enormity. My first thought upon seeing her was that she must have had enough of the deer and now wanted to eat me for dinner. What I didn’t consider at the time was that she would probably hate eating me for the same reason I hated eating mice.
I backed up all the way to the drop and looked down at the landscape below. I was far too high up to jump down without injuring myself – even with my ability to land on all fours.
“Oh, come on, I can’t surely be that scary,” the creature said, again inside my mind. “I’m only a Ruby, after all.”
But what was I meant to say back? I mean, normally I shouldn’t understand another species’ language. Yet, here I was hearing her in my head as if she was now part of my train of thought. I hissed back at her, looking for a way to dart back out the door. But she had blocked off any chance of escape.
“You know, cats aren’t usually allowed outside their cattery,” she said, and she raised one of her massive brows. She was hairless and had these harsh red scales that seemed to converge towards her eyes. “Sometimes, the humans let them out in the kitchens. But no one in their right mind would enter a dragon’s chambers. So how, might I ask, did you end up here? Or is this your first time visiting Dragonsbond academy? Perhaps you’re a stray from outside.”
I arched my back even higher than I thought possible, and hissed again at the creature, baring my teeth. In hindsight, I don’t know how I was expecting to scare her. But then the fact I hadn’t eaten for days meant I was a little grumpy and wasn’t thinking straight.
“I’ve never known your kind to be so unfriendly. Don’t you speak at all? I’ve given you the honour of having access to my mind, and I thought you’d at least say something.”
Well, I’d never spoken to any creature that wasn’t a cat before. But surely it was just the case of putting one word after the other in my mind. I tried it.
“What are you?” I asked. Really, given the circumstances, she couldn’t expect me to be a creature of many words.
The massive lizard tossed her head forward and let out a massive roar that almost sent me stumbling off the wall. “What am I? How dare you suggest you’ve never heard of a dragon.”
“A what?” Come to think of it, I think they had called the Maine Coon ‘Dragon’ on television, funny as humans were with names.
“A dragon… you know, fearsome creatures who knights used to hunt down with lances and swords. Or at least they did until the warlocks rose to power and became both ours and the humans’ arch enemies.”
I opened my eyes wide at the creature. For a moment, I didn’t feel threatened but rather utterly confused.
“Are you really telling me you’ve never heard of a dragon? You don’t have nightmares of us in the night? You don’t tremble when you see us, the fiercest of all the creatures known to man?”
“I… Are you like a hippopotamus?” Word had it from the two Savannah cats in my old neighbourhood, that these were the fiercest of all the creatures. The two cats had never seen a hippopotamus, of course. Such creatures didn’t roam the wilds of South Wales. But their ancestors had passed down the wisdom to fear the hippopotamus, monsters of the mud with razor sharp buck teeth.
The dragon creature bellowed out again, and this time a little heat came out with the roar, making me think it might finally cook me as it had probably done the venison. “How dare you compare me to a hippo – a hippa – sorry, what was that word, again?”
“A hippopotamus,” I replied.
“How dare you compare me to a hippopotamus.”
“Do you even know what a hippopotamus is?”
She raised one of her massive eyebrows, and steam puffed out of her nose. “No… Enlighten me.”
I explained to her exactly what the Savannah cats had told me. As I did, I kept glancing over at the ground below, wondering if I could survive the leap, because this insult would probably be the straw that broke the dragon’s temper. Now, she would likely tear me to shreds.
She puffed out a second plume of smoke from her nostrils, this one much thicker than the first. It hit me right in the face. I coughed, then I sneezed, and I prepared myself to jump. But instead, the dragon made some strange low-pitched noise. After a moment, I recognised this as laughter.
“Is that what you think dragons do? We wallow about in the mud all day? I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous in over fifty years.”
“Then what do you do?” I asked.
She shook her head. “You know, you’ve been quite entertaining, and I hear that you cats have quite good balance. Why don’t I take you on a little ride?”
The dragon lowered her head to the ground, and then the arch of her back followed. This was the first time I saw the spikes running along her back. They followed two thin rows on either side of her spine, curling out and then back in as if part of a second ribcage. But fortunately, they were so close together, it didn’t look like I’d tumble out from between them.
“What are you doing?” I asked. She’d gone from wanting to eat me to now deciding to go to sleep in front of me.
“I’ve only just come of age as a dragon,” she continued, “and I’ve reached the time of my life where I’m due to choose a rider. But these spikes present a problem. With them, I can’t hold a saddle. They’re such a nuisance to the humans, that they’ve threatened to cut them off. But I’m proud of my spikes and I don’t want to have them cut off. Now, maybe, you could be a solution.”
“What the whiskers are you talking about?” I asked.
“Just hop on my back, and we’ll go for a little ride. If it goes well, maybe I’ll let you have a little venison for supper.”
Now that was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I looked over at the carcass, the delicious smoky scent of it wafting into my nostrils. “Let me have a bite first. Then I’ll consider.”
“You drive a hard bargain,” the dragon replied. “So let it be. But only a bite, unless your tail wants to see the end of my flames.”
I cautiously approached the deer, eyeing the dragon on the way. It seemed to pose no threat, so I took hold of a bite of the roast in my teeth and sequestered it away to the other end of the room.
After I’d eaten it from the floor, I decided that maybe this dragon creature wouldn’t be so bad after all. So I did what she said. I leaped over her nose, landed on her forehead, and then I nestled myself between the spikes on her back.
Suddenly, the ground lurched underneath me, although this ground wasn’t composed of earth but dragon flesh. But her spikes held me firmly in place, as she walked me over to the edge.
Presently, the dragon unfurled her massive wings, sending up a massive gust of wind around me. Then, I almost tumbled backwards down the corridor between her two rows of spikes, but I found my footing before I rolled off onto the floor.
“Keep steady,” the dragon said.
“Of course I’m steady. I’m a cat,” I replied.
“We shall see,” the dragon said, and before I knew it, the skin underneath me spasmed in a sickening way that made me want to vomit. Presently, her feet lifted off the ground, and she carried me up into the sky.