Sequestered deep in the capital, the tyrannical Emperor Vosper weaves a plan to destroy all the dragons. He succeeds in driving them to the very brink of extinction. Only a handful of dragons and riders remain; living in exile in the desert. When young Elias Dorgumir finds a carved dragon stone in the forest, it brings empire soldiers to his doorstep, and puts Elias on the run with a bounty on his head.
With some help from his friends, Elias must escape the emperor’s wrath and try to make it to the safety of the dwarf caverns. Elias holds the key to the salvation of the dragon race. Is Elias strong enough to save himself and halt the evil that is spreading across the land?
* * *
The evil emperor Vosper gathers his troops in the east, poised to conquer the entire continent. His target is the rebel city of Parthos, a constant thorn in his side, and the last sanctuary of the Dragon Riders.
Besieged from all sides, the remaining Dragon Riders come out of hiding. Forced to fight for their lives, they leave the safety of the desert, traveling across the land to gather intelligence and shore up forgotten alliances.At the center of it all is Elias Dorgumir, the key to an ancient prophesy, and Vosper will do anything to get his hands on him. Is it too late for the Dragon Riders to save Elias and stop Vosper from destroying the only refuge they have left?
* * *
As the races of Durn stand on the brink of war, the power-hungry emperor plans his conquest of the entire continent.
The dragon riders are fragmented. They have been scattered across the land; weakened by the discovery of a traitor in their own ranks.
Are the riders strong enough to defeat Vosper before he destroys them all?
Book 1 ~ Family Secrets
“Why did your parents wait so long to start your training?”
“At first, they wanted me to celebrate my coming-of-age ceremony. It was an important rite of passage for young girls back then, with feasting that could last for days. It’s rarely celebrated now because most families can’t afford to spend money on such luxuries. In the end, though, my parents had little choice. A few years later, Vosper took the throne and the countryside was no longer safe. My parents felt that they couldn’t send me to train in Aonach—they were terrified of the emperor and his increasing powers. My mother’s premonition was correct. The following year, Vosper assassinated his own father and became the emperor.”
“What happened after Vosper took the throne?” asked Elias. “Was there a war?”
“No, not at first. Vosper was ruthless, but shrewd. He never declared war against anyone. He used assassins and dark magic to secure his position. First he slaughtered his four brothers. Not all at once—but they all died under suspicious circumstances. Then Vosper took control of Aonach Tower, under the guise that he was ‘protecting’ the mages. He killed any spellcasters who refused to serve him, branding them as traitors. Then he sent soldiers out to scour the countryside for any other mageborns—even children. All mages were sent to the palace under guard. They were forced to pledge fealty to the emperor, or they were executed. Vosper transferred the most powerful mages to his palace and refocused all their magical training on his own defense.”
“How did you escape?”
“Many of the weaker spellcasters escaped detection. The emperor subjugated the strongest mages when he stormed Aonach, but more than a few of us escaped enslavement. My magical gifts are limited, so I never attracted any suspicion. Some mages can only cast a few spells—enough to survive. There will always be spellcasters—it’s impossible to eradicate us all.
“I was one of the fortunate ones. I was still young and not many people knew about my gift. Keeping me hidden saved my life. We fled the city and changed our family name. Luckily, Father had saved some money. Those were difficult times.”
“If you fled the city, how did you receive your training?” asked Elias.
“My parents risked everything to send me to Miklagard, the last outpost of the free mages. Miklagard was a poor substitute for Aonach Tower. Only a handful of Masters escaped—those who were traveling away from Aonach during the emperor’s attack. I only trained at Miklagard for five years. Before the war, parents received a mage dowry for their children. Now, mages are forced to charge fees for training. There were many mageborns who were more powerful than I, but could not afford to train.”
“What did you learn in Miklagard?”
“I learned herb-lore and how to read simple spells. The Masters discovered early on that I had a gift for healing. I also learned how to hide my gift. Most people just assume that I’m an excellent midwife. Those who suspect rarely ask questions. A few times, though, I got careless and my magical gift was exposed. Twice I’ve had to leave a village because I feared that I would be reported to the emperor. It’s hard to believe that Vosper would be interested in a feeble mage like me, but you never know. It pays to be cautious. It’s a mistake to underestimate the treachery and greed of your neighbors.”
It was rare for Carina to reveal so much family history at once, and it was obvious that she struggled with the memories, still so painful after all these years.
“I’m thankful for my gift and my teaching. It has allowed me to earn a living while so many others have starved. After the destruction of the Temple, most believed that the emperor was satisfied. But Vosper had much higher aspirations than just controlling the mages of Durn. Two years later, he assassinated the Five Kings, charging them all with high treason. Everyone knew that it was a ploy for Vosper to take control of the entire continent.”
“Grandmother, I thought one of the kings survived,” said Elias. “What about King Mitca?”
“Yes… the rebel king. Who could forget about him? Unfortunately for the emperor, Mitca did survive. During the war, he was merely a prince. Mitca was the crown prince of Ravenwood and the only male child of King Galain. The prince survived because Galain sacrificed his own life to save his son’s. Galain discovered the emperor’s plot months before because he planted a spy in the emperor’s palace.”
“Why didn’t Galain just fight the emperor himself?”
“Galain knew that he wasn’t strong enough to stand up against all of Vosper’s armies and his corrupt wizards. Instead, Galain disguised his son as a beggar and whisked him out of the city with a few of his honor guard. Those men had guarded Mitca since his infancy and, to this day, the surviving members are fiercely loyal to the prince. Galain stayed in the city. A slave boy posed as a decoy for the prince. The city was captured shortly thereafter and the entire royal family was put to death.”
“Vosper didn’t realize that the slave boy was an imposter?”
“No. Galain killed himself and the boy in a staged suicide the night before their official executions. The deception was perfect. It was many years before Vosper discovered Galain’s trickery. By then, Mitca had already settled in the Death Sands and established the rebel Kingdom of Parthos. Vosper’s overconfidence cost him the rule of the continent. Now Parthos is a thorn in his side that will never go away, and every year Mitca grows stronger.”
“Why doesn’t the emperor just attack Parthos?”
“Oh, he has tried! He has tried! But Vosper has failed again and again. The Death Sands are almost impossible to cross, and the kingdom is heavily guarded. Parthos is a huge, well-populated city. The majority of its inhabitants are tribesmen, and they are inherently distrustful of the emperor. Parthos has a majestic fortress, which is carved right into the mountainside. It even has its own water source, an underground spring that can sustain the entire city if necessary. Mitca has his own mages, and the free mages of Miklagard are his allies. King Mitca is the emperor’s only real adversary. Plus… Mitca offered refuge to the last of the dragon riders.” Carina whispered the last sentence under her breath.
“Dragon riders? I thought they were all dead!” said Elias.
“Quiet! Keep your voice down!”