‘Raven’s Flight’ - An Excerpt

Raven is the darkly beautiful dragon in my ‘Penny White’ books. He’s fascinated by humans, and in particular Penny herself. But why? What could have happened in a dragon’s life to make him more interested in humans than his own kind?

The answers are to be found in the novella ‘Raven’s Flight, A Dragon Romance.’ This short story tells of his early life, and the human woman who helped to raise him. The opening section is below. Best of all, the novella is FREE on Amazon and Smashwords! The links follow the end of the excerpt. You can also obtain a free copy by joining my newsletter—just click on the button above.

Happy reading!

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The round objects which had once shared his warm space were now gone. He floated free in his warm, liquid-filled kingdom, although he had to keep feet and wings tucked close. If he allowed one to scrape across the soft flesh walls, a thick growl shuddered through the body that surrounded him. 

Somehow he knew that he was meant to follow the same route as the earlier occupants of his home. One by one, each had succumbed to the muscles which had convulsed to push them out of their sanctuary. Their departure, he knew, had resulted in an arrival at a different place. Loud voices had trumpeted in joy when the last had left his mother’s body.

The contractions came again. He bunched up his tail, doing his best to brace himself against the movement pushing him towards the exit. No good. The liquid churned past his snout and ears, warning him that he was losing the battle. So he spread out wings and claws, digging desperately into his warm shelter.

The bellow threatened to shake him free. The voice was deep, resonating down through muscle and bone. ‘It’s as I said. A search dragon! I can feel its foul presence rotting my belly!’

‘Then eject the thing,’ said a voice near his left ear. ‘And we can eat it.’

‘I eat my own failures,’ his mother’s voice responded. ‘And I’ll hunt down that useless drake who inflicted this on me. A search dragon! In my longhouse! Wayland will never fly me again.’

‘You have to get it out first,’ growled a voice near his right ear.

‘How? I’ve never been cursed with such a puffling before.’

A moment’s silence. Then another voice said, ‘It’s comfortable. You need to make yourself uncomfortable. Heat will do.’

‘But be quick,’ came a response. ‘You’ll need to catch it before it finds a crossing place. That’s how Hekla’s puffling escaped.’

The space around him compressed. The temperature rose, and he pulled himself into a small ball. The outer edge of his wings curled inwards, and he whimpered. Then, with a determined growl, he extended his tail and hind legs. Ignoring the pain wisping around his toes, he turned until his snout was facing the route taken by the eggs. 

The heat disappeared in a loud roar. At the same moment, the sides of his shelter closed in around him. He allowed his body to be pushed down through the canal. Why he should be denied the welcome given to the eggs was a question to be pondered some other time. For now, he had to prepare himself. Death waited for him outside, and he would have to be quick to avoid it.

With a loud squelch, he slid free from his mother and spilled across the hard floor. His claws scrabbled at the surface as he fought to stand. The world was bright and cold, and air burned into his lungs as he took his first breath. Something long and thin still bound him to his mother. He twisted his head around and reached over his green-black body. A quick slice with his sharp teeth set him free. 

Movement left and right made him hiss, arching his back and wings. ‘Leave it to me,’ someone commanded harshly. It took him a moment to recognise the voice of his mother, which sounded very different now that he was outside her body.

‘Not in the longhouse,’ said one of the large objects, still just a hulking shadow in his birth-smeared eyes. ‘We never kill them in the longhouse.’

There was a sudden increase in brightness to his right. He staggered towards it, attracted by the clean smell. The sound of a deep chuckle, and the liquid rasp of a tongue being drawn across teeth, made him stretch out his wings. His eyes were clearing. Green and grey waited past the opening. And, above that, an aching blue which tugged at some deep place inside of him.

‘Not in the longhouse,’ said his mother behind him. ‘But once it’s outside, then I’ll put an end to this abomination.’

‘But even an abomination is named,’ a low voice told her. ‘Is it a draka or a drake?’

He slowed his pace and glanced behind him. The dark blue dragon who met his gaze was, he realised, the one who had given him birth. The eggs of his siblings were gathered in a circle near her hind claws. She stepped carefully around them, her massive head lowered towards him. ‘It’s a drake. Very well. I name him Hrafn. Hrafn Eydisson, out of Eydis Asgersdottir by Wayland, that worthless drake.’

‘Well named,’ said a smaller red dragon standing near her. ‘It’ll rest easier in your stomach now.’

A name. Hrafn. He felt the last of the birth fluid drying on his scales. His wings trembled as an air current played along the loose skin, the angled struts. On the ground, his mother had the advantage. His body wasn’t even as large as one of her forefeet. But in the blue which stretched up over his head…

Hrafn kicked out with his hind legs. The sudden lurch was too much for his forelegs, which folded underneath him. His snout plunged into the soil just outside the longhouse. Laughter, cruel and bloodthirsty, rang out behind him. He tilted to his left to pull himself free. Then, the breath of his mother hot on his tail, he hopped across the grass. The leaps steadied into a run. His wings unfurled, and spread out on either side. 

Desperation made him flap too soon. The far edges hit the ground, and he snarled at the pain. He stood at the top of a hill, so he took advantage of the slope. His chest expanded, gases filling his flight chamber and giving him the lift he needed to rise into the air. He tucked his legs in close and concentrated on pumping his wings.

Roaring laughter crashed around his head. He looked up as the warmth of the sun was blocked, casting him into shadow. The huge body of his mother glided above him. Her blue head swung down, massive jaws opening to reveal gleaming fangs. Her breath smelled of fresh meat.

Hrafn felt a pang of hunger which nearly folded him in half. But rather than fall from the sky, he forced the pain to add impetus to his wings. If he didn’t manage to outfly her, he would just be another meal for his mother.

Teeth filled his vision. Her mouth widened, and he realised that she planned to snatch him mid-flight. Even as she snapped at his neck, Hrafn folded his wings so that he dropped away.

Something pointed and hard clouted his body. Hrafn found himself spinning wildly, wings and tail tangled. A dark blue forefoot stabbed once more past his eyes, claws outstretched, a cage of black and gold threatening to wrap around him. He roared in frustration, and a small bout of flame burst from his jaws to singe the toes just beyond his head.

Murderous disapproval boomed from his mother’s throat. Hrafn had never heard some of the words before, but the tone told him that she no longer wished to give him a quick death. Somehow he managed pull himself out of his fall and into an unsteady glide.

His mother’s wings pounded, and he felt her rise far above him. Any moment now, she would dive, and the sheer force of her plunge would break his bones long before he hit the ground. Hrafn searched sky and hills, wondering desperately how he could get away. He must find a way to escape. Where was his escape?

A new scent came to his nostrils. Thick with blood, and heavy with a dankness which was distinctly non-dragon. The source was just a few feet below and to his left. He dipped his wing and spiralled towards the source. As he came closer, he could also sense harsh sun, and hear cries of creatures wounded and dying. But all he could see was the scrubland of his birth. 

Sharp claws tore across his right wing. Hrafn screamed. His tail twisted as he flung himself at the thin shimmer just ahead of him. His mother bellowed, and he could feel death coming towards him in bone-crushing certainty.

Then he was falling towards an expanse of shining sand. Strange beasts struggled near objects that smelled of metal and smoke. Blood added streaks of red to their green and brown coverings. His right wing flapped uselessly in the wind. The ground rushing towards him looked hard and unforgiving. He needed to fall into something which wouldn’t break his body upon impact.

There. Just to his right. Hrafn took in a deep breath. The scent of cold earth and fresh water. And silence, in contrast to the chaos below him. He twisted his body, using his good wing to throw himself into a dizzying spiral towards the shimmer that hung in the air.

Change again. He had a brief glimpse of dark clouds and tall mountains. Then he hit a hard surface which gave way beneath him. 

Liquid churned around his body. This was nothing like the warm fluid he had known inside his mother. It was cold, and dark, filling his ears and eyes and forcing its way down his throat. Hrafn fought against the pull, struggled to breathe, felt the last of his strength ebbing away.

Something clamped around his tail. He was torn away from the lake’s grasp. Stones bumped and scraped against his belly. Hrafn opened his mouth, tried to expand his lungs. Water gurgled and sloshed in his throat, and he thrashed, still drowning even though he was now on land.

A voice shouted near his ears. He recognised the tone of command, and also that it held none of his mother’s malice. So he forced himself to lie still, although every muscle was screaming for him to run.

Two hard objects were rammed into his stomach. Hrafn retched. Water flowed around his tongue and teeth. Then he gasped, drawing air into his body. Cough and breathe, cough and breathe. He dimly felt himself lifted to his feet, his snout resting on the damp ground as he continued to exchange water for air.

His legs were too weak to support his weight. Hrafn slumped down onto his haunches, wings straggling loosely on either side of his belly. As his sight cleared, he glanced at the source of the voice. 

The creature was similar to those he had seen in his brief plunge over the desert. Dark blue cloth hid most of its body. It stood on two of its legs, which made it tower over him. The other two limbs ended in short talons, and he blinked at the lack of claws. The head was round, and the pale face was flat. Two green eyes met his gaze, peering through a flop of long blonde fur. 

Sounds came from the small mouth. ‘I don’t understand,’ Hrafn responded.

The creature tilted its head. The skin furrowed. It said, slowly, ‘Fall. Hurt?’

‘Yes.’ Hrafn turned his head to look at his right wing. Red blood was seeping from the tears in the skin. And another deep pain came from his stomach. ‘Hungry.’

The creature left his side. When it returned, silvery things were flopping in its forefeet. These were placed on the dark ground. Hrafn took a quick sniff. Then he opened his jaws and ate. The flesh was watery, and cold, but it slid down his throat and eased his hunger.

‘House,’ said the creature. ‘There. Come.’

Hrafn felt shame burn through his chest. ‘I’m not strong enough.’

The creature came to his left side. It lifted his wing over its shoulders, and then pressed close. ‘With me.’

And, supported by his rescuer, Hrafn turned and left the beach.

Their progress was slow, and he had to fight against the strong desire just to fall down and rest. But the creature was insistent. Step by step, Hrafn was taken over the soft ground and up a small hill. At the top, he momentarily hesitated, alarmed to see a stone building. However, this was too small to be a longhouse, and he could scent no other dragons nearby. So he allowed the creature to take him over the flat stones set outside, and then into the shelter.

He was led to the area near a cracking fire. The creature finally allowed him to lie down. It spoke more words, but he was beyond caring. All that mattered was that he was safe, warm, and fed. He stretched out his head and wings and fell asleep.

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