When shy and retiring Llandry Sanfaer discovers a mesmerising new gemstone, she suddenly becomes the most famous jeweller across the Seven Realms. Demand for the coveted stone escalates fast; when people begin dying for it, Llandry finds that she herself has become a target.
Lady Evastany Glostrum has her life in pristine order. Prestigious, powerful and wealthy, she is on the verge of crowning her successes with the perfect marriage. But when her closest friend is murdered for the jewellery she wears, Eva is drawn into the mystery surrounding the curious "istore" gem.
The emergence of the stone is causing chaos across the Seven. Gates between the worlds are opening at will, pulling hordes of creatures through from the shadowy Lower Realm and the glittering Uppers. As Eva works to discover the culprit behind the spreading disorder, Llandry must learn the truth about her precious istore stone - before she herself becomes a victim.
Charlotte E. English and I have something in common, in that more than a few of our most faithful readers were initially attracted by our cover art. Behind the compelling imagery, Draykon is a deep and rich fantasy story with a detailed setting that will draw in any fan of the genre. Combined for the first time into a special StoryBundle Omnibus, this series gives readers a chance to explore the adventures and unraveling mysteries of the plot in full.
"Charlotte E. English, has a very special imagination, she took me to a world like I have never found in any books I have read since Bryan Lumbly's Necroscope series. She will definately take you on a fantastic journey."–Amazon Reader Review
"Don't expect the same old story line. This is something different and better. Great characters and unexpected twists and turns."–Amazon Reader Review
"The world Charlotte English has created is lush, deep and complicated while maintaining a continuity that, for the most part, establishes itself as human. The background on the Draykons/Dragons is exceptionally clever and her characters are not just engaging, but real. This book was truly a treat and I have already started the second installment - "Lokant". Excellent, excellent work!"–Amazon Reader Review
"Jewelry and gemstones; a deranged tea garden in the Lower Realm; a pair of impossibly powerful sorcerer-summoners and draykons; how could all these things possibly connect? What truths lay hidden within fairytales and myths? Draykon explores the possibilities. Caught up in this book, I could hardly put it down."–Amazon Reader Review
"Pleasantly surprised at how this book was just as amazingly epic as the first! The vast depth of the characters is captivating in a way that makes the plot turns and twists completely unexpected and enjoyable to follow. This book is definitely more well rounded than the first edition which I didn't think was possible! So looking forward to the final chapter in this series."–Amazon Reader Review
"This book is layered, complicated and deep. Once you pick it up...you can't put it down! The author's writing style is eloquent, fluid and a pleasure to read. I can't say enough good things about this book!"–Amazon Reader Review
"This is the second novel in the Draykon series, and continues shortly after the previous book left off. I love the unique set-up of the Draykon worlds, and the plot keeps me turning page after page, but probably my favourite thing about these books is the cast of believable, determined, flawed-yet-lovable characters. In Lokant we meet a number of intriguing new characters, and there are further adventures for old favourites. If you loved Draykon (book 1) half as much as I did, I think you'll find this a worthy successor."–Rachel Cotterill’s Book Reviews
"The entire Draykon series is absolutely well worth the read and this final novel is no different. You delve even deeper into the lives of the characters you have come to know and love while all around you the plot is taking twists that you never for a moment saw coming. It's very well written and edited and I enjoyed it from the first page. As the final book in a fantasy series it performs admirably, giving you everything you need to sit back and say, "Aaah, that was great!" It has my recommendation!"–Ebook Apothecary
"Wow! Epic! Truly, that's got to be one of my favourite fantasy series ever. I absolutely loved the third book of the Draykon series."–Author Farida Mestek
"I have kind of been a massively huge fan of this series for a while now. Charlotte English is one of those authors that I truly believe give the world of indie publishing a great name. She's a diamond in the rough, the real deal. Her books are edited fantastically, written in a manner than lets you know she put tons of time and effort into crafting a great experience for the reader, and this latest book is no exception to that."–Urban Fantasy Reviews
Llandry waited until a passing cloud bank cast a misty grey shadow over the forest, then she silently took to the skies. She flew low, keeping beneath the cover of the glissenwol caps, trusting to their wide trunks and blankets of draping vines to conceal her movements. There was no sign of pursuit on the ground or in the air behind her, and she relaxed. She flew south and east, making for the vicinity of the border into the Darklands. Eventually she saw the darkened skies of Glour looming ahead of her and she began her descent, landing gently in the thick mosses wet from the day’s rain.
She paused, disorientated. The surroundings were familiar: clusters of entwined glissenwol formed a tangled wall stretching away to her left, crowded with an obscuring thicket of ferns and moss. The path to her cave lay behind this mass of foliage, she knew the route perfectly. But the opaque darkness of Glour loomed close, too close. It should be a dark mass on the horizon. Instead, the eventide light was abruptly cut off and plunged into shadow barely one hundred feet ahead of her. Had she flown off course? She stepped forward warily, scanning her surroundings for familiar landmarks.
She stepped softly towards the wall of twining trees, twisted easily between the glissenwol trunks, ducked to avoid the hanging vines. The path was slightly overgrown, but unmistakeable; this was the same route she had passed through many times before. Her cave lay two hundred feet ahead, through the overgrown passageway and into the grassier space beyond.
Now that passage lay under shadow.
Llandry walked forward until she stood with the tips of her red boots on the very edge of the divide. The transformation from light to darkness was abrupt: the air blurred into dusk for a mere few feet and then the solid darkness of the night took over. The moon was up, silvering the land below, but with her Daylander eyes it was a strain to see into the darkness that cloaked the forest ahead of her. She could just make out the outlines of half-grown, pale glissenwol caps shrouded in palpable darkness. Starved of light, they were already fading, their shining pale trunks turning sickly, the vibrancy draining from their crumbling caps.
Anxious, Llandry flexed her wings. Then she sat, wrapping her arms around her drawn-up knees.
‘What do you make of that, Siggy?’ she murmured. Sigwide stared up at her with wide, trusting eyes, his long body quivering either with tension or excitement. Llandry lifted him into her lap, stroking his short silver-grey fur soothingly.
‘I don’t think it’s a good sign, either,’ she agreed.
She could not see the entrance to her cave, which meant that the hillock beneath which it lay must now be situated some distance into the gloom. Raised as she had been under the perpetual light of Glinnery, Llandry had no night vision at all. Could she even find the way to her cave? What would she find there if she did? The spread of the Night Cloak may have quite another cause, but Llandry felt a settled dread that its expansion into the vicinity of her cave was no accident.
She ought to return home. She had other work to do; if this was a mere mistake, it was a boundary problem that would soon be resolved. But tomorrow she would be restored to her parents’ house, under her mother’s constant, concerned scrutiny, and there would be no further opportunity to return. If she wanted her istore, it would have to be done now. In its natural environment, the stone emitted its own light, illuminating the interior of the cave; all she had to do was find her way to the entrance. Surely she knew it well enough to find her way there blinded.
Sigwide’s trembling had calmed. She gently placed him on the floor and stood up.
‘Stay here, Sig.’ The orting sat obediently on his haunches and blinked at her, his black nose testing the air.
Llandry tucked her long hair more firmly under her cap and checked her tools, hidden away inside her cloak. Then, resolutely, she stepped into the gloom.
Immediately the air changed. The gentle warmth of Glinnery faded, replaced by a soothing coolness. The sounds of Glinnery forest receded as thoroughly as though a thick wall divided her from the glissenwol canopy. This was no illusion, then; she truly stood in Glour territory.
She strode forward a few paces and stopped, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. She stood silently for some minutes, her sensitive ears alert. No sound broke the silence of the night. She moved ahead, stepping lightly through the crisp, dying moss that still carpeted the floor. She proceeded slowly and carefully, using her hands to warn her of obstacles. She trusted her instincts to guide her, walking in what she hoped was the accustomed direction.
A flicker of movement caught her attention. She paused, ignoring a ripple of nervousness.
It’s only the dark. Darkness cannot hurt me.
She moved ahead again, lifting her chin, trying to generate a feeling of confidence. She had made it most of the way there. The cave must be within fifty feet or so of her location, if her instincts had guided her well.
But then came the sharp sound of twigs cracking underfoot - the sounds of another person, or large animal, walking some way ahead. She froze, unwilling to meet a Darklander out here, groping her way through territory that had become unfamiliar. How could she possibly explain what she was doing, a Daylander creeping through the darkness without a light? She stood perfectly still, listening hard. Her straining eyes discerned a lean shape a foot or so before her, the outline of a beast’s narrow head and long, powerful legs. In the darkness she could gain no clearer impression of the creature, except that it must be large. Movement flashed perilously close to her face.
She knew instinctively that this was no native of Glour. Never had she heard of such a creature, with flesh as black as night, almost as tall at the shoulder as she was. She began to retreat, moving as fast as she dared.
A mistake. The movement incited the beast: it tensed and sprang. Its weight barrelled into her and she fell, gasping. The creature turned and lunged for her again; she rolled instinctively, but not fast enough: searing pain exploded in her arm as long claws ripped easily through her flesh. She twisted away and launched herself to her feet, then into the air. Flying in the darkness was a danger in itself: repeatedly she swerved only just in time to avoid colliding with trees that loomed suddenly out of the darkness. Behind her she could hear the creature crashing through the undergrowth, easily keeping pace with her.
Light blossomed ahead of her and she burst into Glinnery’s woods, weak with relief as her eyes showed her a coherent picture once more. Flexing her wings, she began to climb higher into the skies, aiming for home.
Then a small grey shape below caught her eye. Sigwide! He was prone to wandering, but now the blessed animal still sat obediently where she’d left him, waiting patiently for her return. She cursed faintly and dived, scooping up the orting. Beating her wings hard, she fought to climb back into the skies but she wasn’t fast enough: claws raked over her back, tearing through her clothes and tracing deep lines of fire across her skin. She was knocked to the ground, pain-blinded and losing strength. She had fallen on the wrong side of the divide and lay again in darkness.
Eyes flashed in the gloom, icy-pale and merciless. The beast growled. Desperate, she forced herself to her feet and threw herself into the air, trusting to her wings to catch the wind and carry her aloft. She expected any moment to feel claws in her flesh again, expected to be dragged back down to earth. But to her intense relief she rose and rose, speeding away from the border and back towards the city of Waeverleyne.
Sigwide was still cradled to her chest. He was screaming in distress, the sounds shattering the calm she tried to draw around herself. His grey fur was soaked in blood, and for a horrified second she thought he was injured. Then she realised the blood was her own; her left arm was shredded, pouring blood. The extent of the injury sent a shock of terror through her; gritting her teeth, she fought it down. If she could only keep going for another few minutes, she would reach her mother’s house - or somebody who could convey her there.
But moments later dizziness engulfed her and her sight blurred. She felt herself falling. She landed hard, the impact sending waves of pain through her body. Sigwide fell from her weakened arms. She lay for a moment, half-stunned, then drew a deep breath, pulling herself carefully into a sitting position. She examined her arm.
Five long gashes ran from shoulder to elbow, deep and ugly. Blood flowed in alarming quantity, coating her skin in sticky, warm redness. She flexed her hand gingerly, breathing deeply to ward away the faintness. Pain scorched from her shoulder to her fingertips and she gasped.
She felt the gentle touch of Sigwide’s nose against her knee. The orting gazed at her with his liquid eyes wide. She stroked his fur with her good hand, and gathered him up.
‘Onward, and... fast.’ She spoke through gritted teeth. Sigwide stuck his nose into her ear as she moved on again, trying to hold her wounded arm immobile. She swayed as faintness again threatened to overwhelm her. Sigwide settled himself against her neck, uttering a rough, grumbling purr.
Llandry took another three steps and stopped. The world blurred and her vision clouded with fog. She swayed, and Sigwide squeaked with alarm as he tumbled out of her limp arms. She fell.
Tren was staring vacantly at the pages of an open book when the woman appeared.
It wasn’t that he’d given up, precisely. He had been hard at work since soon after moonrise and it was now long after moonset, but as he had nothing better to do and no company at all, he had every intention of continuing with his reading until he couldn’t stay awake anymore.
But some awkward part of his mind had had other ideas, ever since he’d learned that Lady Glostrum was spending the evening with Lord Angstrun instead of studying side-by-side with him as she usually did.
Particularly since he had realised that she wasn’t coming home until the next day. What that meant did not take a great deal of intellect to decipher. When he had heard light footsteps crossing the floor of the study, his grey misery had lifted with the brief hope that Eva had come back after all.
But when he looked up, he saw a complete stranger.
She wasn’t as tall as Eva, but she was larger in every other sense. Her hair was chestnut brown and her complexion was a shade of brown he’d never seen before. She smiled at him and paused before the desk.
‘Forgive my intrusion,’ she murmured. She had a lilting accent that was pleasing to the ear, though he couldn’t place it. ‘I wasn’t expecting anyone to be here so late.’
Tren stood up and bowed politely. ‘I probably shouldn’t be.’
‘Then that makes two of us, for I shouldn’t be here either.’
Tren smiled uncertainly. ‘Are you a friend of Lady Glostrum’s?’
‘I have never met her ladyship. I am looking for some lost property.’ The woman shifted her attention to the desk, still scattered with books, and she actually began searching through them. Feeling a flicker of alarm, Tren closed the book he was reading and stacked it up with a few others.
‘If you’ll grant me your name, I’ll tell Lady Glostrum you called. Perhaps she could help you another time?’
‘Oh, no, no,’ she replied mildly. ‘I don’t need to be helped. Ah, there it is.’ Her hand darted out; she grabbed a book from the middle of Tren’s pile and pulled it out. The rest collapsed and slithered to the floor.
‘Um – wait, those belong to Lady Glostrum, you can’t just –’ He quickly began picking up fallen books, stacking them out of her reach.
‘This one is mine,’ the woman said, leafing through the large book that she held. Then her brow furrowed. ‘Hm. Did you remove these?’
Tren realised she was holding Andraly Winnier’s memoirs. The torn stubs of the missing pages stuck forlornly out of the centre of the book.
‘I see,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’ She turned away and made for the door, but before she reached it her form became suddenly less solid. He could make out the outline of the door before her.
Then she vanished.
For an instant Tren sat frozen with confusion. Then, remembering that the study overlooked the street outside, he jumped out of his chair and hurried to the window. The streets were dark - the Night cloak reigned overhead, blotting out all sunlight - but the lamplighters had done their work diligently, and the streets were well illuminated with silvery-white light globes bobbing gently in the air. He could discern no sign of the chestnut-haired woman.
Tren drifted back to his chair and sat down, suddenly realising how tired he was. He had probably hallucinated the figure out of pure sleep deprivation. But the book was certainly gone...
The prospect of making his lonely way back to his house repelled him; it was a walk of more than twenty minutes and he couldn’t face it in his current state. He shuffled to the sofa instead and lay down.
When he woke, he opened his eyes to a vision of smooth white skin and soft, even whiter hair. Lady Glostrum’s face, close to his. Her deep blue eyes were fixed on him, bearing a thoughtful expression.
‘Oh,’ she murmured as he blinked. ‘I’m sorry. You seemed deeply asleep.’
‘One would think in that case that it would be more questionable to stare at me in this way.’ He couldn’t move without bumping into her, so he stayed where he was.
‘I told you not to wait up for me.’
He cocked an eyebrow at her. ‘Somebody has to keep an eye on wayward young ladies.’
He expected her to laugh at that, but she frowned and sat back on her heels. He sat up, suddenly feeling awkward. A small black shape fell from his chest and flew off.
‘Rikbeek likes you,’ Eva said, noticing the direction of his gaze. She didn’t move away.
‘Lucky me. Does that mean he’ll be drinking more of my blood, or less?’
His neck itched, right on cue. He slapped the gwaystrel away in irritation.
‘Sorry,’ Eva said. She didn’t sound remotely remorseful. If anything she was trying not to laugh.
‘If that monster of yours sucks me dry, I’m holding you responsible.’
‘No danger of that. He’d explode if he tried it.’
‘It might be worth the sacrifice, in that case.’
She laughed softly. Watching the way her mouth dimpled at the corners, he forgot to speak. The silence stretched.
‘Er, so,’ he said with a cough. ‘How was your dinner? And what time is it, anyway?’
She glanced briefly at the uncurtained window. ‘Not moonrise yet. And dinner was fine.’
He looked at her, puzzled. She’d obviously stayed the night with Angstrun, yet here she was home before the moon even rose. It was none of his business to ask, of course, but...
‘Oh,’ he blurted. ‘I forgot. Um, one of the books is gone.’
‘Gone.’ She repeated the word without inflection, gazing at him levelly.
He sighed and rubbed his eyes, still feeling exhausted in spite of his few hours of sleep. ‘I hope you are feeling credulous, or I am about to be fired.’ He told her about his nocturnal visitor and the woman’s curious disappearance, explaining in some detail in hopes of being believed. Her expression didn’t change, but he knew his story must be hard to credit.
He finished speaking and she said nothing at all.
‘I suppose I’d better go home,’ he said at last.
‘Must you? I was about to order breakfast.’ She stood up and dusted off her skirt. ‘Don’t worry about the book. Not your fault. But it’s interesting. Shall it be eggs?’
‘Thank you, I-’ He stopped. She was already gone.
They left the village in gwaystrel form, flying towards Waeverleyne as a group. Pensould had insisted on taking the lead, with Llandry and Avane behind and Ori at the rear. Despite the invisibility illusion, Llandry felt exposed. Her gwaystrel senses were not fooled by Avane’s sorcery, so the other three were as obvious to her as they had been to her human eyes. It was difficult to believe that they were truly hidden to human observation, and much harder for draykoni to spot.
Llan’s tiny body shook with nerves as she flew towards the battle. She was grateful to be doing something constructive, but she couldn’t fly directly into the heart of the conflict without suffering some fear. The whole pack of invading draykoni were back and intent on causing as much destruction as possible; with the addition of the enormous, fire-breathing constructs, the risks were high indeed.
She knew that the others felt fear, too. She could feel it, no matter how well they had concealed it before. But none of them hesitated. Waeverleyne was hopelessly outclassed: if the four of them could uncover the means to destroy the constructs, the risks would be fully worthwhile. Llandry swallowed her fear and flew on, scarcely faltering even when the gigantic airborne forms of the mechanical draykoni appeared on the horizon ahead of her.
Once they were in range, the four wordlessly split into pairs: Ori and Avane veered away to the left, and Llan followed Pensould straight into the path of one of the strange, metal-and-hide draykoni.
The construct they had picked was much more terrifying up close, and so much larger than Llandry in her gwaystrel shape that she felt as though a mountain had ponderously taken flight. The first thing she noticed as she neared the thing was its flexibility. Such a monstrous, oversized construct ought to be slow and awkward in its movements, but this one was not. Pensould strayed too close to the thing’s head; the mighty jaws instantly opened and snapped shut again, and Pensould missed being swallowed by a hair’s breadth.
Keep clear of the head! Llandry shouted. Pense, please be careful.
I am always careful, he retorted, in spite of obvious evidence to the contrary.
The two of them sped away from the creature’s head, mapping the thing’s body from neck to tail. Llandry noted black hide that gleamed with a dampened, oily sheen in the Glinnery sun; real muscles that bunched and flexed under that strange hide; the sense of metal and oil beneath the surface, bones of some impossibly strong alloy. No discernible weaknesses there.
We need to know how that flame-throwing thing works, Llandry said privately to Pensould. That’s the dangerous part. We need another go at the head, but watch out for the teeth!
Pensould didn’t reply. He veered out to the left, circling around the thing’s jaws, and Llan went the other way, darting in and out too fast - she hoped - for the construct to have time to react to her presence. Each one of its eyes was as big as she was; she wanted to get a look at those, too, to decide how sensitive they were. Gathering her nerve, she flew in fast and settled on the creature’s head, clinging hard with her small claws. She’d placed herself right above one eye, and now had a clear view of the shining orb.
Glass, that’s what it looked like, but it wasn’t normal glass. It looked like the stuff that made up the lenses in Eva’s light-reduction spectacles. Behind the glass, the eye looked real. That is, biological in nature. If so, this might be the first weak point they had identified, but it wasn’t enough by itself. Large these eyes may be, but how could they hope to hit such a target from the ground? Or even from the air?
The flame comes from a device in the throat, Pensould said to her. I can neither see nor sense any kind of fuel, but do you feel the energy?
Llandry did. It pulsed and buzzed through the construct’s hide, making it hot and harder to hold onto. What do you think that is?
The mechanical parts must have some manner of fuel to operate. It is my guess that it is using sunlight, absorbed through the hide. It will take a lot of this energy to power the flame function, so we may find that it will have to stop and recharge sometime soon.
Llandry remembered Devary’s explorations in Nimdre, and the warehouse full of devices he’d said were probably using the sunlight in some way. I think you must be right!
Her next sentence was cut off when the construct gave its great head a violent shake, its jaws flexing. She was shaken off, and those heavy jaws snapped horribly close to her wings. Invisible she might be, but the creature had senses of some kind with which to see or feel her presence.
We’re spotted, she cried. Time to go!
Right behind you, Pensould replied.
Llandry flew hard, blessing the small size that allowed her to duck and weave away from the construct’s attempts to catch her. She was fast, but the damned thing was fast, too, in spite of its size and it took her too many terrifying minutes to escape from the thing.
But that gave her another idea.
Pense? she called, taking refuge in a tall tree.
Still here, Minchu.
While that thing was chasing us, it wasn’t setting fire to any more trees.
I noticed that too, yes. Perhaps we can find a way to distract them for longer. A safer way.
Llandry spread her wings again and launched herself into the air. Let’s find the Commander.
Then Avane shot by her nose, almost colliding with her. Llan! She yelled in Llandry’s mind. More of them on the way!
What? More of what?
More draykon-things! Ori and me, we had to run and we got chased out beyond the city. We saw at least one more away on the horizon, maybe more.
Llandry swore. Coming this way?
It was hard to tell. Llan, I’m not sure if they were coming here or - or going to Glour.
Llandry swore again. Where’s Ori?
Here, came Ori’s voice from somewhere above.
We have to tell the Commander, she said. Fast.