The Dragons of Ash and Smoke (Tales from the New Earth Book 5)

Tales
from the New Earth: Book 5

The
Dragons of Ash and Smoke

By

J.
J. Thompson

Text
Copyright
©
2015 J. J. Thompson

All
Rights Reserved


No,
I'm not a hero. I'm just someone who's been in the wrong place at the
right time.”

- Simon O'Toole

Table of Contents

Chapter
1

Chapter
2

Chapter
3

Chapter
4

Chapter
5

Chapter
6

Chapter
7

Chapter
8

Chapter
9

Chapter
10

Chapter
11

Chapter
12

Chapter
13

Chapter
14

Chapter
15

Chapter
16

Chapter
17

Chapter
18

Chapter
19

Chapter
20

Chapter
21

Chapter
22

Chapter
23

Chapter
24

Chapter
25

Chapter
26

Chapter
27

Chapter
28

Chapter
29

Chapter
30

Links
and Things

Chapter
1


Wake
up, laddy,” a rough voice said from out of the void. “Come
on now; you've slept too long.”

Slept too
long? I'm not dead?

Simon
O'Toole, former middle-aged I.T. guy, Changling, young wizard,
struggled toward consciousness. The blackness that had surrounded him
for an eternity was pushed back reluctantly as he reclaimed his life,
his destiny still unfulfilled.

He opened
his sticky eyelids and was met by a blur of muted colors and
flickering light. He reached up to wipe his eyes and was surprised at
how weak his arm moved in response. And when he had dug the gunk from
his eyelids and was able to see his right hand, he stared at it in
disbelief.

Simon had
been skinny ever since his body had Changed, back before the dragons
had destroyed civilization, so he was used to his fingers looking
thin and delicate. But what was shocking were the lines of white
scarring that criss-crossed his fingers, his palm and the back of his
hand.

He turned
it this way and that, frowning at it in confusion. When he raised his
left hand, it matched the right. The fingers all moved as they
should, but the white tracing of scar tissue was all over his skin.


Well,
it's good to see that your hands work just fine,” that voice
spoke again, gruffly. “The cleric said they would, but those
gods of hers are flighty at times.”

Simon
turned his head to the left and his eyes widened in surprise.


Stanis!”
he exclaimed, his own voice a dry croak.

The
short, squat dwarf, son of a noble, was sitting on a heavy wooden
chair next to the bed the wizard was resting on. His thick black
beard was intricately braided, interwoven with gold trinkets and
hanging to his waist. It parted now in a bright smile and his dark
eyes, deep in their sockets, lit up with delight. He had a large,
aquiline nose that lent him a regal air and his wide mouth displayed
white, even teeth.

He was
wearing light armor; chain mail over leather, that tickled with a
faint music when he moved. He wasn't armed though.


Ah,
so you recognize me. That's a good sign, I'm told.” He leaned
forward and peered at Simon. “How are you feeling, young
wizard, hmm?”


Feeling?”

Simon
turned his head and looked up at the ceiling. It was made of
rough-cut stone, a dozen feet over his bed, and was flickering with
shadows from the torchlight reflecting on it.


I'm
feeling fine, I guess. Where am I?” he asked as he turned his
head to look at the dwarf again.


You
are in our capital city. You couldn't pronounce its dwarvish name,
but in your tongue it would translate to Kingstone.”


Kingstone,”
Simon repeated and smiled a bit. “I like it. But how did I get
here?”


What
is your last memory?” Stanis asked him, still watching him
closely.

The
young wizard frowned as he tried to remember. There had been a
battle, hadn't there? He had fought a brown dragon. No, that wasn't
right. He had fought
the
brown dragon, the primal. Yes, that was right.


I
went up against the primal brown, didn't I?”


Aye,
that you did. And you won too!” Stanis exclaimed with a broad
smile. “I never would have believed such a thing was possible.
But apparently you should never bet against Simon O'Toole, master
wizard.”


Hardly
a master,” Simon protested, his face getting hot. “Just
lucky, that's all.”


Ha!
Lucky, is it? Well then, that's four lucky battles in a row, because
there are four dead primals now and you were prominent in all of
their deaths. Not a bad accomplishment for a lucky wizard, I'd say.”


It
sounds better than it was, believe me,” Simon told him. He
looked around the room slowly, taking in his surroundings before he
attempted to get up.

The
bedroom was large, as was the bed he was lying in. Torches burned in
brackets along the walls and there were many bookshelves stuffed with
scrolls, books and odd statuettes and carvings. The walls, like the
ceiling, were made of dark, rough stone.

The
bed was covered with a thick, bright quilt. Blues, greens and yellows
made it a cheerful chaos of colors and brightened the otherwise
rather gloomy room. The mattress under him was soft and comfortable.


So
I'm in the dwarven capital. How long have I been here?”

Stanis
toyed with his beard, twisting a braid as he stared at Simon with a
calculating expression.


This
may come as a bit of a shock, young man, but it's been a while.”

Simon
struggled to sit up and the dwarf reached out and put a rough hand on
his back to help him. He moved the pillows to prop the wizard up and
waited until he was comfortable.

Looking
down at his arms, which were bare, Simon gasped. The scarring twisted
and ran up in lines and whorls from his hands all the way up to his
shoulders. It looked like someone had stitched white threads into his
skin in abstract designs. It wasn't horrible looking, but it did seem
unreal to him.


Was
I injured in the fight with the primal brown?” he asked as he
turned his arms this way and that, looking at the scars closely.


Not
against that dragon, no,” Stanis said slowly. “Your
injuries came later. Now, as for how long you have been here...”

He
paused and Simon turned his head to look at him.


Go
ahead,” he said with a reassuring smile. “I was knocked
out for a week once; the last time Clara healed me.”


Clara.
Yes. Well, it's been quite a bit longer than a week, actually. You've
been convalescing for just over six months.”


Six
months?”

Simon
sat bolt upright and gaped at Stanis.


How
is that even possible? What the hell happened to me?”


You
really don't remember?”


I
really don't. Just a vague memory of fighting the brown and then
nothing. It's like my mind was wiped cleaned.”


Wait
a moment. I want to bring someone in before we continue speaking.”

The
dwarf stood up and abruptly left the room, leaving Simon lying there,
bewildered.

Six
months, he thought. My God, what happened?

He
looked at the mass of fine scarring and then lifted the quilt and
looked down at his body.

He
was only wearing a loincloth and his body was paler than ever. The
scarring was even worse there. His chest was covered with thick cords
of scar tissue and it ran down across his stomach to his legs.

He
moved his legs and wiggled his toes. Yes, everything worked and he
was still in one piece, but how badly wounded had he been to have
been kept in a coma for six bloody months?

Simon
heard some footsteps, lowered the quilt and watched the door.

Stanis
came back in followed by the first female dwarf that the wizard had
ever seen.

She
was the same height as Stanis and almost as broad, but unlike stories
in the old fantasy novels Simon used to read, did not have a beard.
She was wearing a sleeveless leather tunic, leather trousers, boots
with iron soles that clanked as she walked, and had thick blond hair
tied back into a long braid.

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