Now that Dragon Emperor: Book Two of the Dragon Spawn Chronicles is complete, I’ve been working on editing Book Three, Dragon’s Fall. I wrote the first draft of this novel back in November, 2019, then set it aside to finish Book Two. I began the second draft on April 1st this year. This second draft looks much better than the first but I need your help to make it perfect. Check it out below and feel free to leave a comment. Let me know what you think overall, make suggestions for improvement, and point out any errors. I’d love to hear from you!
Spoiler Alert!!! Some of the things Terk mentions happened at the end of Book Two. If you haven’t read the first two books yet but are planning to, perhaps come back to visit this post later. Consider this, though: What happened at the end of Book Two was mostly from Jori’s perspective. Book Three is mostly from Terk’s point of view and he doesn’t have all the information. He just might have the wrong impression about what really happened.
Chirps, tweets, and occasional shrieks created a racket that would have annoyed Terkeshi at any other time. He sucked in a breath and took in the wild scene before him. Stout vines strangled limbs and branches, but the trees defiantly sprouted varying shades of green. Short invasive scrub flourished under broad-leafed plants as towering evergreens barred all but a few dabs of sunlight.
Terk wiped a blanket of sweat from his brow. The sweltering jungle air clung to him but did nothing to alleviate the dryness in his mouth. His eyes followed the barely discernable path that disappeared into the bush as he evaluated the task ahead.
“You can do this,” he muttered while flexing his fingers. With a few puffs of breath, he posed into a starting position. His muscles went taut, and he imagined himself a blackbeast getting ready to spring from hiding to run down prey.
His heart pulsed, flushing oxidized blood throughout his body. With a set of his jaw, he lunged into action. A giant green leaf slapped him in the face as he sprinted down the path, but he ignored the sting.
The gurgle and splash of rushing water filled his ears. After rounding a wide trunk, he jumped from an exposed root and landed on a wet stone. Without hesitation, he sprung from rock to rock until his feet squished into the mud of the opposite bank.
Getting over the stream was the easiest part.
He scrambled up the slippery bank, grabbing at roots and rocks. The slope grew steeper and his breaths deeper. His leg and shoulder muscles burned as he pushed and pulled himself up. With a grunt, he grasped the uppermost ledge and heaved himself up.
After all that exertion, the strength of his body wavered. He forced it to keep going and raced on. Razor edged leaves cut across his face. Sweat filled the slashes, overshadowing the fire of his spasming muscles.
He dashed onward—once hand over hand as he used a hanging vine to cross a swamp, twice ducking low to avoid limbs, and several times in bounds as he hurtled over rocks or dead wood.
The final leg of the course neared. He huffed in measured breaths until the path cleared and a ravine cut before him. His muscles tensed as he prepared to jump.
Now! He leapt from the edge and stretched his arms overhead, aiming for the thick hanging vine. The instant it brushed his hands, he seized a hold of it. The vine slid through his palm and sliced into his skin. He gritted his teeth and endured.
His momentum swung him over the gully. As the tail end of the vine slipped away, he maneuvered his body to keep his power driving forward. His feet struck the lip of the ravine and—slipped.
He tumbled backward, falling only a few feet before landing with a thud.
The simulation fizzled out. The humidity dissipated and the jungle disappeared. Vines turned into ropes, rocks and hills became makeshift obstacles, and the ground reverted into a plain padded flooring.
Terkeshi jumped to his feet with a curse. “Chusho!”
He’d been at this for hours. Why couldn’t he get over that damned ravine? It was impossible. Whoever made this sim course was delusional. No one could beat it.
Except someone had—the one person he could never defeat. Terk’s younger brother had been only ten years old when he died, yet his accomplishments lived on.
Terk growled and punched his thigh. Damned that little brat. It wasn’t fair.
“You will get this, my Lord,” a deep voice said from the edge of the court.
Terk glowered at his mentor.
“It took me hundreds of tries before I succeeded,” Sensei Jeruko continued.
“How many times did it take Jori?” Terk replied sourly regarding his brother.
“I don’t remember exactly.”
Although Terk’s sixth sense told him the man spoke the truth, he also sensed his evasiveness. It had likely taken Jori only a dozen times to defeat this course. Damned overachiever.
His mentor exuded a pang of regret and it almost influenced Terk’s own. He shoved it aside and deepened his scowl. It wasn’t their fault Jori had gotten himself killed. They both warned him about what would happen if he helped those prisoners. But as usual, his brother had let his sentiment get the best of him.
Sensei Jeruko clasped his hands behind his back. “If you’ve completed your exercises, my Lord, your father wishes to speak with you.”
Terk clenched his fists. Father had likely demanded rather than wished. Ever since Jori’s death, the man assigned him one impossible order after another. Terk barely had time to sleep anymore. Yet no matter how hard he worked, it was never enough.
He stomped to the dressing room, not bothering to tell Sensei Jeruko whether he’d comply. It wasn’t like Father would praise him for promptness anyway.
He put on his nanite-infused uniform. The black garb of a senshi warrior fit him well enough to show the definition of his muscles. At first, he admired himself in the mirror. His tall and muscular physique was coming along well for a fourteen-year-old.
His emotions soured. Father didn’t care how young he still was. The man still expected him to perform as well as an adult senshi warrior. After all, except for Jori’s lack of strength, he’d been able to keep up.
Terk abandoned the TTAC room without bothering to put the obstacles away and marched to his father’s office. Giant senshi warriors veered around him. Most nodded respectfully due to his status as the last Mizukian heir, but a few made derisive faces.
Prince or not, he still had to prove himself before these men respected him.
The corridor curved, revealing a viewport that spanned about ten yards. While most of the panes displayed a sea of stars, one was pitch black. A camera was out. He tapped the MM tablet clasped to his wrist and checked the maintenance log to see if it had been reported.
While skimming through the list, a titanic object on the feed of the final viewport pane lurked in the corner of his vision. He pointedly ignored the spaceship, not wanting to be reminded of how he would have taken command of it if Father hadn’t deemed him a failure.
Adding menial tasks for the shokukin workers to take care of seemed all he was good for.
He stabbed his MM, closing the display, and entered the conveyor. The closer it brought him to the command level, the heavier he felt. It had nothing to do with the acceleration of the conveyor. Terk delved out his sensing ability to check Father’s mood and bit the inside of his cheek. The man’s anger stewed as usual, but it held a stab of irritation as well.
The conveyor doors opened to narrow hall. Terk veered left and soon found himself at the door to his father’s office. Might as well get this over with. He sucked in a breath and braced himself.
A wintry draft struck his face as the door swished open. He stepped inside with his chin up and automatically fell into a stance of silent attention.
Father continued working. Terk peered straight ahead, resisting the urge to fidget as he waited for the man to acknowledge his presence. The dragon picture on the wall behind Father’s desk seemed more menacing than usual. Never had Terk hated that image as much as he hated it now. It seemed to mock him with its fiery green eyes. You’re not good enough, it said. You will never be good enough.
Father raised his head and his eyes sharpened. “I just read the report regarding the status of the emitter. It appears we’ve made no progress—none—these past several days.”
Terk considered his response. Of course no headway had been made. The only ones who’d had any chance of reconfiguring the perantium emitter into a weapon were gone. First Hisho Yemon for trying to blackmail Jori, then the Cooperative prisoners when Jori helped them escape, and finally Jori himself.
A mix of anger and hate swirled in Terk’s gut. It was Father’s own fault no one remained to fix this planet-killing device. He dared not say this out loud, though. “We’re working on it, Sir.”
“I don’t understand why this is taking so damned long.” Father’s dark eyes glinted with madness.
The man’s descent had begun with the death of Terk’s oldest brother, Dokuri, who was killed in battle. Montaro had been next for being more of a failure than Terk. After that, one of Father’s closest advisors betrayed him. The final snap had been when Jori got caught helping the prisoners escape. Terk shivered at how Father’s temper had spewed a destructive energy that had left Terk as the only surviving heir to the empire.
“This should have been done by now.” Father slammed his fist on his desk. “Jori would have finished it already,” he mumbled.
Terk’s gut twisted. Not twenty days ago his father had cursed his lost son. He refrained from pointing out the hypocrisy, though. No need to kick an angry blackbeast.
“If only Dokuri were still here,” his father said louder. “Incompetence. I’m surrounded by incompetence!”
Terk’s cheeks burned. Dammit, Jori. Why’d you have to die? You weren’t supposed to die.
The foolish sentiment of his little brother had cost him his life. And for what? Nothing. Not a damned thing.
Yeah, those Cooperative officers got away. But they were nothing compared to his brother.
Fucking cowards. Just like Jori. Cowards. Every damned one of them.
“I will get on Haverly about this, Father,” Terk said, hoping to divert some of his father’s anger.
“Haverly is a fool,” Father spat. “He has no more of an idea of what he’s doing than you do.”
Terk bit his tongue to keep his rising anger at bay. “What would you have me do, Father?”
The man rose, leaning over his desk on white knuckles. His face darkened as his brows twisted inward. “I would have you do your job and live up to the Mizukian name.”
Terk resisted the urge to gulp and hardened himself instead. “I’m doing the best I can.”
Father pushed away from his desk and advanced. “Your best isn’t good enough!”
Terk’s breath hitched, and he reflexively stepped back. Father’s Herculean bulk stifled the words in his throat. The singularity of the man’s eyes flared like a relativistic jet. His black hair, black eyes, and black temper could easily outmatch the biggest blackbeast.
“Tell me what to do, Father,” Terk managed to say evenly despite his quivering chin. “And I will do it.”
His father flicked his hand. Terk flinched, expecting to be struck.
“There’s nothing you can do, boy,” Father replied with a growl. “You give me no choice. I must contact the cyborgs.”
Terk’s heart jumped. The cyborgs? Those creepy outsiders with the mechanical eyes and computer ports in the back of their heads? “Are you sure, Father? There’s something about them I don’t trust.”
“Unless you can tell me what it is, boy, I have no other options.”
Terk attempted to pinpoint the ill feeling they had given him. It wasn’t just their machine-like movements or robotic way of speaking that had unnerved him. The sense of their life force was different from most other people. It had been… He wanted to say flat, but even that wasn’t a good enough description.
“They’re not natural,” he said. “I can’t sense their emotions the way I can sense other people’s. It’s different.”
“That’s because they’re cyborgs, idiot,” Father replied.
Terk’s cheeks heated at the insult, but he ignored it. “It’s more than that. It’s…”
“It’s what?” his father demanded.
Terk huffed. “I don’t know. The only thing I can tell you for sure is they feel wrong.”
Father glowered. “Can you get this done, then? Can you step up and at least be half as good as your brothers had been?”
Heat flushed over Terk’s face. He didn’t bother to reply. They both knew the answer.
“I’m contacting the cyborgs, then,” Father said.
Terk suppressed a shiver. Damn it Jori. Why did you have to die?