Preview! The Mystic: Book 4 in the Shardwell Series

Book 4 is almost here! It should be out by the middle of next week! But, for those of you who just can’t wait, here’s a little preview:

the mystic ecover

Chapter 2: Blaze of Glory

Kyleren had just stepped off LAMIE when Gene’s panicked warning rang through the comm—something about undefined sensor readings. A second later the ground behind Lance shuddered with a wild thud, like a sixty ton Famorian whale-bird hitting the ground. The shockwave threw Esilwen and Margariete off their feet. Raeylan and Tuatha managed to keep their balance and drew their weapons. Instinctively, Kyleren lifted his BT assault rifle and yanked his core drive from the tattoo on his chest—its new permanent home since Chano repaired it back on Athalonde Prime.

In front of him, a colossal lizard with glistening olive-black scales and a wingspan wider than LAMIE clenched the brown grass with talons as thick as Kyleren’s torso. Spikes grazed its head in a thorny crest. Its eyes shone deadly sharp in the brightening dawn. A jagged scar, old and long healed, marked its armored breast. Its reptilian head reared back as it inhaled a storm of breath. The air crackled with impregnated static. Kyleren and his companions stared with numb disbelief as the gargantuan monster snapped its fanged jaw open.

It was a fragging dragon.

With a concussive explosion, the dragon vomited a stream of lightning from its mouth that caught Raeylan square in the chest. The Thyellan warrior flew backward a hundred meters before he slammed against the ground. Esilwen and Margariete screamed his name, but Raeylan didn’t get up again.

From above, another bolt of lightning struck LAMIE, its hot tip blasting a hole from her top deck to cargo hold. Her living tech skin fluctuated violently as the electricity ripped through her frame. Gene shrieked through the comm before it went suddenly dead. LAMIE fired her engines and crept into the air, but a second dragon dropped from the sky—presumably the one that had hit her with the lightning attack—and its weight forced her back down. Her hull squealed in protest. This dragon, a rusty brown, was only half the size of the first and perched on top of the ship like some kind of cat stalking its prey.

Kyleren unloaded ten rounds at the rusty dragon on LAMIE, but the lizard only grinned as the shots hit its glossy scales. The inflicted damage was almost insignificant.

A chorus of roars announced the arrival of two more of the monsters, moss green and muddy bronze. They soared out of the sky in a dive, one snatching at Esilwen with its huge claws. The thing would have got her had Tuatha not deflected the grab with her feyhammer. The crystalline weapon connected with a satisfying crunch. Moss grunted with pain and veered to the side.

The newcomers were the smallest, but their eyes glowed just as brilliantly as the other two. Kyleren glanced at Scar Lizard, but the big one just watched. Distracted, Kyleren’s leg was yanked out from under him by Mud. The dragon flipped him over in the air and tossed him to the ground. Lance hit hard, coughing dirt, but managed to roll onto his back. Before he could get up or aim his rifle, however, Mud clamped down with its foreleg, pinning Lance solidly against the grass. It sucked air, preparing to blast him with an electric bolt.

Kyleren growled and braced for the attack, helpless and unable to dodge. But—quicker than Mud—Margariete appeared, dashing between Lance and the strike. As the arc of lightning hurtled down, she extended her arms, palms upward. She hissed in pain and dropped to her knees when it hit her, though she managed to dissipate the energy in all directions.

At first Kyleren felt a wave of alarm that she might be hurt, but then he remembered she had the ability to disperse energy attacks. Without further thought he pressed his hands against Mud’s palm, heaving with all his strength. Mud’s eyes widened with shock as Kyleren’s strength overcame its own. Lance threw the claw away, making the dragon extend its wings to retain its balance.

By the time Kyleren jumped to his feet, Mud lashed out with its long tail. With super speed Kyleren pushed Margariete out of the way. Planting his feet firmly, he caught Mud’s tail as it hit him, wrapping his beefy arms around the thrashing appendage.

With a pleased grin Kyleren spun, squeezing Mud’s tail as hard as he could. The dragon squawked in protest and scratched in vain at the grass, but the effort didn’t even slow Kyleren down. He twisted a 360 twice to build momentum and then let the dragon fly. The monster smashed into Moss, who hovered in the air above Tuatha and Esilwen. The two dragons tumbled out of the air in a heap of flailing wings and clawing talons.

Tuatha offered Lance a curt nod of gratitude, but Esilwen—finding her enemies entangled and distracted—dashed recklessly to where Raeylan had fallen. Tuatha ordered her to stop, but the determined healer paid no heed. Tuatha started to pursue. From over his shoulder Kyleren heard the sharp intake of breath that came before a dragon’s lightning attack. He called out a warning.

But Scar Lizard’s breath hit Tuatha directly between the shoulder blades. Electricity surged through her body, causing her to shake uncontrollably. She emitted the high-pitched wail of the shiidh, frenzied with pain. Then the dark-skinned elf crumpled, trails of smoke wafting eerily from her wounded back.

Rusty, the dragon resting on LAMIE’s back, flexed to pounce at the exposed Esilwen. Kyleren burst forward, praying he got there first. But the dragon was closer. It dove for the healer, snatching her up in its wicked claws and zooming up into the sky. At the last moment Kyleren leapt after it, bounding fifteen meters upward. But his fingertips only grazed the bottom of Esilwen’s shoe.

In moments, Rusty would disappear in the clouds. Kyleren could follow along the ground with his super speed, but that would leave Margariete to defend two injured comrades against three enemies. LAMIE was shot to hell. Across the battlefield, Raeylan grunted and coughed for breath. Tuatha clambered to her feet, despite the blood that trickled from every orifice in her face, and stumbled toward the ship. Margariete—out in the open—stared dumbfounded at the sky where Esilwen had disappeared.

Moss and Mud had finally managed to untangle themselves. Scar Lizard hadn’t even been challenged by any of them yet. The colossal dragon just blew lightning at them any time he felt like it.

They were officially fragged.

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About shardwell

C. Hall has been addicted to the many worlds of fantasy and science fiction all her life. She joined her first peer writers’ group in the sixth grade, joyfully sharing world building at a young age. A graduate of Southern Utah University, she now teaches at a local charter school. When she isn’t busy designing activities for her Mythology class or going on field trips with the Star Wars Club, she is spending time with her sister. C. Hall’s favorite authors include J.R.R Tolkien, J.K. Rowling and Tracy Hickman.

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