I'm working on A GLORY OF SPARKS, book 3 of the Skala dragonriders series. Here's a little excerpt from early in the book, when Ostryg goes on an assassination attempt to the enemy's camp, at the behest of Sinkr and Egill. Ostryg is pretty sure that Dyrfinna will be mad when she hears of this -- but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to rise in the ranks.
Sinkr and his mercenaries left the island that night, five dragons flying out to some unknown place. As soon as Ostryg had joined them, Sinkr laughed and slapped his back, clearly excited. “Good to see you, Ostryg,” he said. “Sorry you had to tangle with that bitch earlier.”
“Let’s not talk about that now,” Egill said as he settled into his dragon’s saddle.
Ostryg snorted as he walked to Old Red, who was waiting.
“I remember you,” the old dragon said. “So you decided to join us?” Ostryg nodded and climbed aboard. He had a habit of not speaking much before an assassination mission. Too much talking was bad luck, and just a bad idea. He just wanted to take out the target and come back to camp and sleep.
The night was dark and quiet as the group of dragons soared over the western Norwegian sea. Ostryg couldn't help but feel a sense of excitement mixed with apprehension. It had been a while since he had gone on an assassination mission, and this one was particularly important. They were going to take out Mundir, one of the chiefs of the enemy army. If they succeeded, it could turn the tide of the war in their favor.
As they approached the shore, Ostryg could see the faint outlines of the enemy camp in the distance. It was well-guarded, but they had planned their approach carefully. The dragons would swoop in silently from above, and Ostryg and Sinkr would jump off and take out Mundir while Egill and the others kept the guards distracted.
They landed on a nearby hill, hidden from view. Old Red was muttering, complaining about his old bones and how much he missed his hoard. Ostryg tuned him out and focused on the mission at hand. Sinkr was busy checking his weapons, a cocky grin on his face. Ostryg didn't trust him, but he had to admit that the man was skilled with a blade.
Egill was pacing back and forth, his eyes fixed on the enemy camp. "We need to move now," he said. "They're on high alert, and they won't stay distracted for long."
Ostryg nodded and checked his own weapons. He had a small knife hidden in his boot, and two short swords strapped to his back. He had trained his whole life to be an assassin, and he was damn good at it. Mundir wouldn't stand a chance.
They mounted their dragons again, and with a silent signal from Egill, they flew towards the camp. Ostryg could feel his heart pounding as they landed on the outskirts, hidden behind a row of trees.
As they approached the camp, Ostryg realized that their plan might not be as foolproof as they had hoped. The enemy had stationed dragons at the edges of their camp, their scales glinting in the moonlight. The guards were on high alert, and even the slightest misstep could alert them to their presence.
“Which one is Mundir's tent?” Sinkr asked under his voice.
“It’s probably the one being guarded by two burly dragons,” Ostryg said.
Sinkr grinned at Ostryg. "Let's take them out first," he whispered. "I could use a warm-up."
Egill gestured for them to split up, each taking a different route towards the center of the camp. Sinkr smirked at Ostryg before running off, disappearing into the shadows. Ostryg rolled his eyes and drew his knives before following his own path.
He moved quickly, his senses on high alert. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and his palms were slick with sweat. He moved silently, using every trick he had learned over the years to avoid detection. He passed by guards, carefully dodging their line of sight, and silently dispatched them with a swift blow to the neck.
The camp was still quiet, but Ostryg knew they couldn't waste any time. They rushed towards Mundir's tent, keeping low and staying hidden in the shadows.
As they approached, they could hear the sound of voices from inside. Egill signaled for them to stop, and they huddled together to plan their next move.
Finally, he reached the center of the camp, where Mundir's tent was located. The tent was guarded by two massive dragons, their eyes glowing in the darkness. Ostryg cursed under his breath.
The dragons were talking in low voices. “I’ll never forget when I first came to this land,” one of them was saying. “The first thing I saw when I flew in was a human skeleton, walking along this wide plain all by itself. By the holy ones, I said to myself, what is this strange place where skeletons walk on their hind legs? So I flew down and knocked it over and tried to eat it. Tasted like dust on the first bite. Then the bones started rolling around in my mouth, so I had to expel them as quickly as I could. The skull went rolling around on the ground, trying to reattach itself back to the spine. It gave me the shivers. I tell you, we flew out of there as quick as we could. I’ve never seen the like.”
“You’re just making this up,” said the other dragon, who seemed to be much younger. He put his head on his front feet dolefully. “There aren’t any monsters like that. I wish I could sleep.”
“Sleep is for the faint of heart,” the first dragon said, gently nosing him. “It’s not for a strong one such as yourself. Stay alert.”
Suddenly, there was a loud crash from inside the tent. Ostryg managed not to involuntarily duck. Somebody shouted in alarm.
Ostryg froze at the sound and exchanged a quick glance with Egill. To his surprise, Sinkr signaled for Old Red to create a distraction.
From his hilltop, the old dragon let out a deafening roar. “What do you think you’re doing, you assholes? Come on out and let me show you how an old asshole fights!”
The guards from the edges of the camp rushed toward the dragon as Old Red lifted off, blasting fire.
But the dragons guarding Mundir’s tent made no move to follow.
“Who’s that?” the younger one asked, his pupils getting large as Old Red rose in the air, scattering curses and rude remarks. Warriors from Varinn’s army, roused from their slumbers, began firing arrows at him.
“I don’t know that dragon’s name, but I’ve seen him around,” the other dragon replied in an offhanded manner. “By the Eldr, but he is rude. Close your ears, you’re too young for such language.”
“I’m not that young,” the younger dragon huffed, lying down again.
The other dragon nosed him. “Get up. If that dragon is causing a scene, it’s because somebody from the heathens’ army is here, trying to attack us. We must find them.”
Ostryg groaned inwardly. So much for our assassination attempt. And now the whole camp was awake – they’d have to fight their way out.
A strange sound made him turn. To his astonishment, Sinkr was trying to squeeze underneath a side panel of the tent, which was securely staked into the ground. Not even a snake could have fit its way under there, much less a full-grown man.
“What are you doing?” Ostryg grabbed his ankle to haul him back. “We’ve got to run!”
“Piss off. Now’s our chance to be heroes!” Sinkr kicked his foot free, pulled out a dagger, and tried to cut his way in – but the thick, tightly-woven, and oiled fabric resisted even his sharpened blade. The thud made by Sinkr’s knife, however, resonated like a drum.
Somebody from inside the tent – and it definitely sounded like Mundir – exclaimed mildly in Andalusian. “Gentlemen, we have company,” he added.
Egill came around the corner of the tent, took one look at Sinkr, and pulled him loose. “We are leaving, now,” he said in a tone that brooked no argument. With one swift movement, he pulled Sinkr to his feet.
Ostryg fled with them, shaking his head. This had been a complete debacle. He had not imagined that Sinkr would be that much of a dumbass. Which, in fact, was something Dyrfinna had said about Sinkr many times under her breath. And that annoyed him further.
Just then, he heard Mundir say something behind him. He flung a look back over his shoulder.
Mundir stood by the tent where Sinkr had just been, flanked by a group of elite warriors and his guardian dragons, weapons at the ready.
“Those poor fools,” Mundir said. “They have made a grave mistake, coming out here.”
Gefjun flashed into his mind. Little Joy. What was he doing out here, on a mission so poorly planned, if he couldn’t get back home to them? If he couldn’t escape with honor?
“Miraghan, Vesai, if you please,” Mundir said, then raised his voice. “Zaethaes, Asseod, come to me.”
Ostryg, recognizing these as dragon names, ran faster, but there was no outrunning a dragon. A sudden gust of wind behind him made him turn, his throwing knives in hand.
A massive dragon swooped towards them. Its black scales glittered in the moonlight, and its eyes blazed with fury.
“Found them,” it said. “Not hard, though, since they have no concept of hiding themselves.”
It sailed overhead and landed in front of Sinkr and Egill, its hot breath washing over them.
“Ugh,” it said dully, snuffling at Sinkr. “Not you again.”
Ostryg blinked in surprise. He exchanged a bewildered glance with Egill – but Sinkr was already charging towards the dragon, his flashing sword raised high.
“Yes, it is me again,” Sinkr exploded. “Your worst nightmare!”
The dragon’s tail lashed out, whip-like, and struck Sinkr in the head with a crack. Sinkr crashed to the ground, groaning, and lay there.
“You are certainly not wrong,” the dragon informed Sinkr, then turned to Egill. “I recognize you. You’re the commander of the enemy, aren’t you? What are you doing here in the middle of the night? Going for a walk, are you?”
Sinkr groaned something that might have been a curse as he tried to get to his feet. The dragon’s tail lashed out a second time, and he slumped to the ground, this time silent.
“Much better,” the dragon said. “Oh, hello there.” For now Mundir came walking up with the rest of his guards, along with somebody else who Ostryg recognized. Behind a body-sized shield with roses painted on it was Ishaq, the prisoner that Dyrfinna had taken during their siege. Ishaq raised his chin slightly in greeting to Ostryg, but otherwise said nothing.
Mundir greeted Egill. “Commander to commander, isn’t it terrible how hard it is to get a decent night’s sleep when there’s a war on? I can’t remember the last time when I’ve had more than four hours’ rest.”
“Enough of your fake jollity,” Egill said. “There would be no war if your king hadn’t killed Thora.”
At Egill's words, the whisper of many blades being drawn came from the darkness around them.
Read more (well, once the book comes out on September 1) here. Preorder today! It only gets better. And then, for our characters, it gets worse. Then a LOT worse. Then maybe better? I ain't saying, I still gotta finish revising this puppy.
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