The Draykon Series, Book 4
Draykon Series #4
Draykoni do not die. Not truly. Not forever.
So we thought. We have been proved wrong.
A killer walks the Off-Worlds, someone with the means and the will to extinguish even the oldest of draykon souls. But why would anybody do such a thing, and how?
I am Llandry Sanfaer: Draykon shapeshifter, ambassador, colony leader. My people are dying beyond hope of revival, and it falls to me to stop it. But the killer leaves nothing behind. No hints, no clues. Just a lifeless skeleton in a dead world.
What’s more, the corrupted energy of Orlind has broken its confines. It’s spreading. With my people and my worlds under threat, I’ll need all my wits, all my strength, and all my friends to set things right.
The Journals of Llandry Sanfaer, Lady Draykon
Entry One: An Introduction To These Records
This is my title. It was bestowed upon me by the Elders of Glinnery themselves, and in front of a hall full of witnesses.
Two long moons later, I can still scarcely believe it.
I am Llandry Sanfaer. You may have heard my name. I am a citizen of Glinnery, one of the Seven Realms, even if I no longer live there. I am of the winged folk. I am a jeweller. I am shy, to my despair — probably more so than anybody you have ever met.
And I am a draykon. Shapeshifter, sorcerer, nightmare of the skies. Until recently, we of the Seven had forgotten the draykoni entirely, their absence from our world so extended that we no longer believed that they had ever existed.
It was me that brought them back. I did not know, then, what I was doing. I Changed… and the world changed with me. It is too late, now, to reverse those events, or to return the draykoni to their former dormancy. Some wish, fervently, that it were not so. We bring magic and wonder and life to the Seven — and we have also brought chaos, fear and war. There are those who will always condemn us.
I am not always certain that they are wrong.
Other pens have recorded the events of which I speak. Accounts have been written and re-written, by scholars almost as authoritative upon such points as I. I have given my side of those stories, over and over again. It is not the purpose of this journal to repeat that tale.
This endeavour is about the future. It was suggested to me by Lady Evastany Glostrum, a friend of mine since those confusing days. She is far better versed in the arts of politics and a public life than I; she has been submerged in both ever since she was born.
Llan. The coming years will be difficult for us all, but for you more than anyone. The return of the draykoni is, by and large, laid at your door, and not everyone is delighted with this development. Now the draykoni tribes and the people of the Seven must find a way to co-exist. It will not be easy. It falls to you, to Ori and to Avane to bring about peace, if you can.
There will be those who will question you, blame you, even curse you. When that day comes, it will be well for you to have a record to hand; an account, if you like, of everything you have done, and everything that you have attempted.
I have no doubt that she is right. Part of me wishes that she had not warned me, thereby stripping me of the bliss that ignorance can sometimes be. It is harder than ever to take up this duty, knowing that blame and accusation are likely to be part of my reward. But she is right.
Besides that, dear Llan, these are momentous times! Someday a little further in the future, scholars will look back on the events of our lives, and wonder. If they do not have first-hand, authoritative accounts upon which to draw, then history will remember us falsely. I undertake to commit my perspective to paper, and I urge you to do the same.
She has promised that I may read her account, when she chooses to declare it finished. I have promised that she may read mine.
Here, then, is my record of events following the draykon war upon the city of my birth, Waeverleyne. I swear that it is a true and faithful record, to the best of my knowledge and information.
This account begins in the year 1913, on the eighth day of the seventh moon. I cannot yet say where it will end.
Not even half a year has passed since I discovered my secret heritage. Perhaps I ought more rightly to say, since my heritage discovered me. My first Change came upon me without warning, and I was defenceless against it.
Prior to that change, the draykoni had receded so far from public memory that we had recast them as mere legend. Absent from our realms for hundreds of years, with all records of their history expunged from our libraries, they had dwindled into tales. We told each other stories of creatures bigger than houses, with wings like sails and scales of every imaginable hue. They could breathe fire, we said. They could swallow a human child whole, and frequently did.
I was the first person to suffer the Change. I say suffer because it was by far the most painful experience of my life. Try to imagine, if you will, that every inch of your skin tries to turn itself inside out; your organs expand too quickly for your beleaguered body to hold; your bones splinter and break themselves in their haste to reform, and then mend in the blink of an eye. Your heart pounds about a thousand beats a minute and you sweat away most of your body’s water under the appalling pressure of it.
And then, when the searing pain is finished and all is quiet once more, you are… other. Everything around you has inexplicably shrunk, for it takes a little while to realise that it is you that has grown. Your face feels strange, because where there was once a mouth there is now a protuberance which can only be described as a snout. Wings you may be used to, if you are Glinnish like me, but not like these. These are indeed the size of sails, and they weigh differently upon your lengthened back. And I cannot even begin to describe how differently scales feel to skin.
When you look down and discover your arms to be more aptly described as forelegs, and that you are sporting wicked claws a few inches long upon what used to be your hands… I would like to think that panic would be a normal reaction.
I panicked. It wasn’t pretty.
Things are very different now, for me and for the wider Realms. I have grown almost as comfortable with my draykon form as I am with my more familiar, two-legged shape. I have grown to love the mist-grey colour of my scales, and the powerful wings that carry me farther and faster than ever my Glinnish pinions could do.
And I am far from the only draykon in the Seven. The next to shift were Orillin Vance of Glinnery and Avane Desandry of Glour, both of whom are now my dear friends. We have been through much together, and I know that I can count on them both to be with me through every step of whatever is to come.
There is Pensould. He was the first of a different type of draykoni to return: the lost ancients. Sunk into a deathlike state and subsequently revived, he is pure of blood, for unlike the rest of us there is no human in him at all. There are others like him. It is difficult to keep track, but our best estimate at present is that there are now nearly forty living draykoni, of one type or another — ancients like Pense or hereditaries, as we have begun to call those like me. Most of them are ancients. There are few hereditaries, yet not so few as we initially believed. Lokant records identified only three of us: Ori, Avane and me. As it turns out, we three were only those with the very strongest draykon heritage — virtually bound to shift, sooner or later. There are others, their blood more liberally mixed. It is harder for them to Change, and they require more of our help, but they are finding their way.
Our numbers are steadily rising. We must make a place for ourselves somewhere in this world — away from the Seven, to my regret, for after the war there are many who will never trust us again. As the Lord and Ladies Draykon, it falls to Ori, Avane and me to attempt to maintain peace between these disparate peoples. It is a daunting task, and one that I do not feel prepared for. It has fallen to me by chance alone; a mere accident of ancestry has placed me here, and I am petrified of failure. The consequences would be severe — another war, perhaps, at worst.
But I must try, and I will. With Pensould and my friends at my side, perhaps I can survive this next year without another total disaster.
Hah. Who am I kidding.