Here’s another sneak peek of my upcoming YA fantasy novel, Everdream. Kynan has just entered the Dragon’s vale, seeing for the first time just how much damage a dragon can do. Please let me know what you think in the comments.
He moved as quickly as he might, though the uneven ground and the shrouding mist made progress slower than he would have liked. Soon more and more shapes materialized in the white void. Trees—or what had once been trees. They stood tall, still, but leafless, even branchless, and black. Charred.
Kynan’s blood ran cold at the sight. He knew, of course, that dragons breathed flame. He knew in theory the destructive power of fire. But to see its evidence in stark black on a field of white reminded him again. These were corpses of mere trees. Imagine the agony, the ruin, a beast with such a dread power could wreak on a frail mortal.
He thought perhaps this might be just one corner of the vale burned by the creature, but as he travelled steadily downward, every tree he saw was blackened. The rocks and earth were scorched. Not a green thing grew, here. And he began to imagine that the dragon had burned the entire valley—and every living thing in it.
Yet his mother was alive. He knew that. He had that assurance by the steady breath of her slumbering body, lying in state in the queen’s pavilion at home in the Wake, unchanging and unmoving, but alive.
The dragon had not killed her. All of this devastation, and it had not harmed her. Why? For what purpose did it hold her, locked away in that tower, floating above the clouds amid a scorched vale?
He could not guess, but he was glad, at least, that she was there. Better alive and captive than dead. At least this way he might have a chance of rescuing her.
His descent brought him to the valley floor. He knew for the ground levelled out beneath his feet. The fog was less here, but not gone. All around, in every direction, he could see nothing but ranks of trees like silent, coal-black soldiers. Trees, and stone.
As he moved forward, in the direction he thought he ought to go, huge slabs of stone materialized out of the mist. Some of them were natural, but many clearly part of some vanished structure, smooth and carved, and inlaid with metals and gems. There were so many colours and designs that they couldn’t possibly have come from just one building. These broken pieces had been taken from elsewhere and dropped here, as carelessly as a child dropping a handful of random pebbles.
The night was wearing on. The moon had long ago set, or so he thought by the lessening of the diffuse light on the mist above. Where it had gleamed faintly silver before, now it was a dull red, as though lit by the glow of a distant fire. Perhaps it was.
He travelled slowly, steadily westward, or thought he did. It was impossible to know for sure in this shrunken world of twists and turns and sense-numbing fog. Some distance along the valley floor he came to a void in the trees, where the ground sloped abruptly down away from him.
As he continued, tentatively, he found the trees had vanished altogether up ahead. The ground was hard, like baked clay, and studded with rocks. Then he found a skeleton of a fish, perfectly preserved in the clay, and realized he was standing in what had once been the shallows of a lake. A vast lake, by the looks of it.
He looked at the fog in a new light. After all, he’d wondered why here, alone out of all of Everdream, such thick cloud might gather. Now he knew. It was the lake, blasted out of its shores by a boiling flame, and exiled to the air where it hung in morose coils. The dragon had not only burned the forest, but had evaporated an entire lake with its heat.
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