Carentan, France 1944 - Ethan Martin, a soldier in the 101st Airborne, is fighting for his life. But soon he will learn what peril truly is when he is ripped from his world and transported to a land of magic, swords, and dragons. And though the Nazis are now far, far away, danger is closer than ever.
The Eternal Emperor, Shinzan has destroyed the mages and only a few dragons remain in exile. And now that Ethan, son of Praxis Dragonvein, has returned he must destroy him as well. Faced with unimaginable power, Ethan has only one hope - to reach the dwarf kingdom of Elyfoss before Shinzan can find him.
Deeply interesting and incredibly personal is how I would describe my first venture into Brian Anderson's fantasy worlds in the form of his book Dragonvein as well as another fascinating group of novelettes that readers found riveting. He brings to life alternate universes and fantasy worlds in the frame of both Naomi Novik and Erik Flint. If you've ever read either of those authors, with dragons in a gunpowder-world fantasy and soldiers sent back to 17th Century Europe on the cust of war, you'll know that this type of fantasy is invigorating.
It's both fascinating and unique, and Brian Anderson manages to fold the best concepts of both of those worlds into his new Dragonvein series. Get ready for mythical fantasy as you've never seen it before – set in 20th Century France…with dragons. – Terah Edun
Really good work once again from Brian Anderson.A deep and interesting first book set in a fantasy world that takes a slightly different tilt on typical fantasy tropes while still retaining echoes of the familiar fantasy themes. ...the book is a joy to read. 5 stars– Amazon Review
WOW... No, really WOW!
A new direction for this author but an exciting introduction into a new world for us, his readers. Believable characters, great development and true depth in their feelings. Action, adventure...twists and turns...several, "what in the world just happened" and "where the heck did THAT come from" moments keep us readers on our toes.– Amazon Review
I loved it. The story drew me in immediately. I read another reviewer who stated that he thought the main character, Ethan, was whiney. I did not find that at all. He behaved just like what any 17 year old thrust into this life altering situation would behave. I can imagine him as just as strong a character as Gewey became (The Godling Chronicles). If you have not read the Godling Chronicles and you enjoyed this book, you must read that series. And now the anxiousness of waiting for Book Two. I look forward to the second book.– Amazon Review
(Lumnia – End of the Age of the Five Kingdoms)
The muffled echo of footfalls running at a desperate pace roused Jonas from his sleep. Moments later the door flew open to reveal Lorina, Lady Illyrian's personal hand maiden. She remained there in the doorway, holding her sides and gasping for air. Jonas regarded her through bleary eyes. She was far too old and overweight to be chasing about in such a way.
He frowned. "Have you no manners, woman? I'm in my nightclothes." He looked over to the window. It was still dark. "What time is it?"
Lorina held up a finger as she continued to catch her breath.
"Out with it," he pressed. Still shaking away the lingering cobwebs of sleep, his eyes moved across the chamber to where his robe was folded neatly on a broken crate. "Well, if you're not going to speak, you can at least fetch me my robe."
The woman glared, then with surprising speed, took three steps to the crate and heaved the robe at Jonas. It hit him squarely in the face, further fueling his irritation.
By now she was sufficiently recovered to speak. "Get dressed. They have found us."
In an instant he was out of bed. The bite of the cold, stone floor quickly encouraged him to put on his slippers. "Are you sure?" But the fear in her eyes told him the answer. "How long do we have?"
"Only minutes," she replied. In spite of the hard emotionless expression perfected by many years of practice, tears streamed down her plump cheeks.
"Where is Lady Illyrian?"
"In the basement." She turned to leave, then paused, looking over her shoulder. "Bring your sword."
The door closed behind her with an ominous boom.
Jonas tore through his pack, hastily donning a shirt and trousers and nearly toppling over while pulling on his boots. His hands trembled as he attached his sword to his belt. He had used the weapon only once before, and even then, not very well. He clenched his fists, cursing himself for such a display of fear. He must be strong. The enemy was coming and his mistress needed him. He took a deep breath, steeled his wits, and left the room with even, deliberate strides.
The barren halls of the dilapidated fortress were cold and dimly lit, with the rotten doors and rusted fixtures along the walls making the gloom seem deeper and even more depressing. Once, long ago, it had been a mighty castle built for the defense of a kingdom that stretched for hundreds of miles in all directions. But that was another age, and the kingdom had long since fallen, its lords and ladies lost to time. The fortress was now a forgotten relic, unfit for human habitation and used only by bandits and smugglers.
He had argued that they could find more suitable accommodations; a place where his mistress could at least lie on a soft bed and have a hot meal. But he knew his objections were foolish. They had been fortunate enough already to have made it this far unmolested.
The smoke rising from Dragonvein Manor as they fled on that first fateful night was still etched in his memory. They had watched helplessly while the place he'd called home for most of his life burned to the ground. And he could see the tears in Lady Illyrian's eyes as she looked back at the brightly glowing flames silhouetting the tall spires and proud walls that had housed a hundred generations of the Dragonvein family. The vivid recollections brought a lump to Jonas' throat.
Upon nearing the stairs that led to the basement, he saw Lorina waiting for him. She was holding a brass lantern in her right hand and a small dagger in her left.
Jonas nodded curtly and waited for her to lead the way. Just as his foot touched the first step, a loud boom reverberated off the stone walls.
Lorina gasped. "They're here. We must hurry."
They moved down the stairs as quickly as they dared, but the wet stone was covered in slime, making the descent treacherous. Jonas frowned. Right now, neither of them could afford to injure themselves. Suddenly, he was keenly aware of the sword hanging from his side. It felt heavy and awkward and was pulling him off-balance.
A few steps from the bottom, his fears very nearly materialized. Lorina's feet slipped from under her and she fell sharply backwards. Only by making a desperate grab forward was Jonas able to catch her just before her head struck stone.
Completely forgetting the etiquette of expressing appreciation, she pulled free of his hold and set off down a long hall lit only by a few flickering torches. Along the way, the tiles were broken and the ground littered with refuse. Even with danger lurking so close behind, Jonas could not help but be repulsed by the rancid odor.
They hurried through a series of passages before arriving at a wrought iron gate. The metal hinges screeched in protest as Lorina pushed it open, causing Jonas to wince and cover his ears. She allowed him to pass through before picking up a thick chain and lock from the floor. Wrapping the chain around the bars and through a metal ring protruding from the wall, she snapped the lock shut.
A wooden door a few yards further down was slightly ajar, allowing the dim light of cheap tin lanterns flickering inside to escape. Jonas ran the rest of the way and pushed the door completely open.
The small chamber was moldy, and in his opinion, ill-suited for the magnitude of the activity taking place within its walls. In the center, Lady Illyrian was kneeling on a circular black rug, the twelve symbols of Arkazhi sewn in pure gold thread all around its border. Her purple satin ceremonial robes were tied at the waist by the golden Rope of Making: a gift given to her by her late husband. Jonas had never seen her wear it before. The full realization of what she was doing then struck him.
Her auburn, shoulder length hair was damp with perspiration, causing it to seize into tight little curls. Her alabaster skin was flushed, and the extreme exertion of the spell she was casting could be seen by the multitude of tiny veins protruding from her slender neck. With closed eyes fluttering as if in a dream state, her body began to sway rhythmically from side to side. In her hands she clasped a blue rajni stone about the size of an apple. It glowed and pulsed with the tempo of her movements.
"Trinity save us," Jonas gasped. "She can't be serious."
He heard the boom of a door being kicked in as the enemy searched the fortress above. Time was running out. The chained iron gate would slow them, but not for long.
Fear was now showing on Lorina's face. "She is very serious," she stated, at the same time moving quickly to the other end of the chamber where a small basket rested in the corner. After a quick glance at her mistress, she put away her dagger and lifted out a bundled cotton blanket.
Jonas knew very well what she was holding in her arms. Panic gripped him. "No! She can't do this!" he cried.
Another boom, followed by a loud crash told him that the enemy was drawing closer. He prayed that it would take time for them to find the stairwell. He looked hopelessly around for an escape that he knew for sure did not exist. They were trapped. There was only one way in and out of the basement.
Lady Illyrian, oblivious to everything around her, began to mutter the forbidden charm. Just a few feet away, a blue light blinked into existence.
As Lorina moved back across the chamber to Jonas, the soft cries of the young lord could be heard from within the blanket. She passed the child to him, as though handing over the most priceless of jewels.
"Why wasn't I told of this ahead of time?" Jonas demanded. "I could have...."
"Old fool," Lorina snapped. "There was no plan. We are trapped, and there is no longer any other choice. She began the rites just after I was sent to fetch you."
Harsh shouts and the sharp barking of orders sounded from above. Jonas tried to guess how close they were now. He looked across at Lady Illyrian, who was rocking even more intensely. The blue light had increased to the size of a dinner plate and was beginning to spin. Swirls of black merged within, making it appear an ethereal vortex of pure magic - untempered and powerful beyond human understanding.
Lorina reached inside the folds of her dress and pulled out a small amulet, together with a coin purse. Jonas' mind reeled as he recognized the amulet. It was a blue rajni stone set in a superbly crafted silver dragon's claw.
"What the hell are you doing with that?" he demanded.
Lorina did not bother to reply. Instead, in one swift movement, she placed the amulet around his neck. Had he not been holding the baby, he would have snatched it off in an instant. She then attached the purse to his belt and checked his sword.
"Stop this!" he commanded.
The magical tempest had now doubled in size.
Lorina slapped his face hard. "You stop, damn you!" Her eyes blazed, though her lips still quivered. "They'll be here in moments. We are to take Weslyn to Earth and protect him. There is gold in the purse, as well as instructions on how to return when the time is right."
The shouts, together with the stomping of boots and clattering of swords, were becoming much louder. They had obviously found the stairs. Lorina responded to this by once again reaching into the folds of her dress, this time producing a tiny glass phial that she threw hard against the closed door. The phial shattered, instantly creating a cloud of red smoke that settled just in front of the entrance.
"That won't hold them for long," she said. "We must enter as soon as the portal is big enough."
Jonas recoiled at the thought. "We can't leave Lady Illyrian. They'll kill her." He wanted to plead with his mistress, but he knew she could not hear him. The terrible magic she was wielding had blinded and deafened her to all but the task at hand.
"Break it down!" he heard a harsh voice command from very close indeed.
Almost immediately came the crashing and clanging of men battering away at the iron gate.
Lorina looked to the door, then back at Jonas. Her jaw tightened and she pushed him toward the portal, which by now was almost large enough to pass through. "Go!" she ordered.
Reluctantly, Jonas moved closer, stopping a few feet away to assess things. If he ducked low he should just be able to squeeze through, but in doing so he might risk harming the baby. Regardless, that was a risk he would be forced to take in a matter of mere seconds. He heard the gate come crashing down and men storming along the passage. Only moments later, a solid kick from a booted foot had the ancient door bursting into splinters.
Two men in black plate armor, the red raven of the emperor's guard splashed across their chest, stood in the doorway glaring menacingly through their steel helms. Towering behind them was General Hronso, his gold, chain-link veil revealing only his penetrating gray eyes.
In spite of the danger, Jonas glanced down at the tiny pieces of broken glass scattered about across the floor and smiled.
Drawing their swords, the two soldiers stepped over the threshold. It was as far as they made it into the room. The moment their boots crunched over the remains of the phial, violent flames erupted, consuming them instantly. Their horrified screams were still filling the chamber when Hronso jumped back, narrowly avoiding the trap himself. He cursed loudly.
Jonas looked again at the portal. Only a few seconds longer and it would be large enough for him to enter without risk to the baby.
"Give me the child!" roared the general.
The flames barring his way were already becoming a little less fierce.
"You will have nothing," screamed Lorina. Drawing a dagger from her sleeve, she hurled it with all of her strength.
With astonishing speed, Hronso reached out and caught the weapon in mid-air. And though his mouth was covered, Jonas could see the sinister smirk in his eyes. Before Lorina could react, the dagger came flying back at her. With an ominous thud, it buried itself deep into her chest.
Jonas looked on with horror as she fell to her knees, clutching desperately at the blade. She looked back at him with tears streaming down her face, then slowly slumped to the floor.
The flames were now almost low enough for Hronso to safely enter the room. Jonas knew he must act fast. He moved closer to the portal.
"No!" Hronso's voice bellowed out, the sound echoing off the walls. He was already reaching for a long leather whip attached to his belt.
Holding the infant close, Jonas tried to leap into the blue light. But it was too late. The whip snaked out and wrapped itself around his left ankle, jerking his leg sharply back. He was only just able to extend his arms sufficiently to keep himself from falling on the child and crushing it. The impact as he hit the ground forced the breath from his lungs, but still he managed to keep his wits. Stretching out as far as he possibly could, he pushed the baby forward just far enough for it to enter the portal. There was an enraged cry from behind and the whip tightened. Consoled by the thought that he had at least saved the child, Jonas felt himself being dragged relentlessly back toward the remaining flames.
He closed his eyes and readied himself for the pain. But just as he began to feel the heat on his boots, the whip became slack. He looked up and saw Lorina, the bloody dagger in her scorched hand. She had cut him free.
"Go!" she pleaded. "Go before it's too late."
Their eyes met for a fleeting instant in a look that conveyed a thousand different emotions. Jonas then scrambled and crawled his way back to the portal.
With one final backward glance at his liberator, he threw himself into the spinning blue vortex.