Fellow blogger Cheryl Mahoney from Tales of the Marvelous has just self-published her first novel — Congratulations, Cheryl! The Wanderers is a Young Adult Fantasy novel loosely based on fairy tales. The story focuses on Jasper, a wandering adventurer; Tom, a talking cat; and Julie, a witch’s daughter. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two (complete with a dragon, since Cheryl knows my fondness for them.) Jasper and Tom are on a quest to obtain water from a magical spring, and have joined forces with Prince Randolph. Randolph has proven hopelessly inept so far, but he’s the youngest of three sons and his two older brothers already failed on this quest…so Jasper is convinced Randolph must be Fated to succeed. Youngest sons always do, you know.
In this scene, they’ve just found the magical spring…
Jasper, Tom and Randolph came out from under the trees into a wide clearing, with an enormous dragon at its center. A vivid green with violet accents, the dragon was curled in a circle around a bubbling spring. Its position made its exact size hard to judge, but forty feet long would be conservative. Any chance of sneaking up was already lost; the dragon was staring directly at them with enormous purple eyes.
Not a problem. A forty foot dragon was entirely manageable.
“I am the Lady of the Spring,” the dragon boomed and, with a stretch of the imagination, sounded vaguely female. “You have defeated my Knight, but you will not find it so easy to fight me.”
“We don’t want to fight you,” Jasper said. “We just need water from your spring. May we take some?” It couldn’t hurt to ask.
The dragon’s purple eyes narrowed to slits. “No. You may not.”
Asking didn’t hurt, but usually didn’t help either. “Can we talk about this?”
“No,” the dragon said again, threw back her head and launched a burst of blue flame.
“Least I tried,” Jasper said as he flung himself to one side. Then he said “Ouch” when Randolph landed on top of him.
On the plus side, the flames missed everyone. They also failed to set any of the trees ablaze, suggesting there was something odd about that fire. Fire wasn’t normally blue, and a dragon with unusual flame was surprisingly common.
As they all scrambled back to their feet, Jasper told Randolph, “We’ll distract her; you get behind her with your sword.”
“Right,” he agreed, and they separated in opposite directions.
“Why are we the distraction?” Tom asked, running beside Jasper.
“Because he has the sword. Hey—Lizard-face, over here!”
The dragon swung her head towards them.
“I bet your mother was a toad,” Jasper called, then dived to avoid another burst of blue flame.
“And your father was a bat!” Tom contributed, scrambling out of the way of a sweeping claw.
“You have lousy aim too,” Jasper added, and ducked. “You couldn’t hit a giant at ten paces.” He flung himself to the left, without looking left first. He avoided more blue fire, but suddenly found himself up against a tree. This limited his possible retreats.
He had the tree to one side and the dragon approaching all too closely from the other. He tried to scramble back around the tree, only to trip on a root and fall, nearly squashing Tom in the process.
“I hope Sylvia is worth this,” Tom yelled as the dragon loomed above them.
“It was never about Sylvia,” Jasper said, putting his arms over his head.
“Really? Who is it about?”
Before Jasper had time to answer and before the dragon could spit more fire, they heard Randolph shout, “Hey monster, take this,” followed by what sounded like metal striking metal. Less encouraging was Randolph’s immediate exclamation, “It broke my sword!”
At least this distracted the dragon long enough for Jasper and Tom to get to their feet again. “Split up,” Jasper directed, and ran right while the cat went left.
The dragon swung her head back and forth between possible targets. Then her eyes fastened on the fleeing tabby cat, and she blew out one small burst of flame.
“Hey—no—over here!” Jasper yelled, but it was too late.
Tom disappeared inside the blue flame.
When the flame cleared, Jasper, who had been running towards the spot, skidded to a halt to stare at a newly-appeared bush, in the exact place Tom had been occupying. The dragon definitely had magical flame. No time to think about it, as Jasper immediately had to roll again to dodge the fire himself.
Eventually Jasper and Randolph wound up in the same place again, on the far side of the clearing from the cat-turned-bush, and no closer to the spring than when they had started. The dragon hunkered down around her stream and gazed at them balefully, apparently content to just stare as long as they kept their distance.
“Do you want to retreat now?” Randolph demanded.
“It’s just a dragon,” Jasper said, with breath he couldn’t really afford to use on an argument with Randolph. “And it would probably come after us if we ran.”
“So what do we do? Its scales broke my sword.”
“You were supposed to aim for the belly. That’s a dragon’s vulnerable spot.”
“You didn’t tell me that!”
“Do I have to tell you everything?”
“You’re the professional!”
“Fine! Take one of my knives, we’ll head opposite directions, and then you come at it from the right and I’ll come from the left.”
“Isn’t that a plan?” Randolph said in surly tones.
Devising steps in response to an immediate situation was not a plan. “Just go!”
They split up again, dodging renewed flames and outstretched claws until they were each on opposite sides of the clearing.
“Now!” Jasper yelled, and they both ran in towards the dragon at once.
The dragon’s head swung back and forth in a moment of uncertainty, and finally zeroed in on Jasper. He had his knife out, and now he watched as the dragon opened her mouth. The timing was very, very close. At the last second, he flung his knife and dived to the side, rolling out of the way of the dragon’s burst of fire.
He was extremely gratified to hear the dragon shriek. It made up for all the sharp stones he had just rolled across. He sat up and saw that his knife had entered just between the monster’s eyes—a dragon’s second and much smaller vulnerable spot.
The dragon was flopping about, one paw scrabbling at her face. Jasper couldn’t tell if this was a last desperate effort before dying, or if the dragon might actually survive.
“Take that knife and aim for the stomach this time!” he yelled to Randolph, on the far side of the dragon.
Before Randolph could try it, a shadow passed overhead and a wind swept through, setting the tree branches thrashing. Jasper looked up to see a second dragon circling down towards them. This one was golden, with pink accents.
“One wasn’t enough?” Randolph groaned.
“Wait, this might be good,” Jasper said, moving to the prince’s side of the clearing.
The new dragon dived in towards the first one, and spat a burst of pink flame at her. Outlined in fire, the first dragon shrunk down into a prickly thorn bush.
“See, that’s a good sign,” Jasper said, as the second dragon touched down. He drew out a new knife though, just in case.
The Wanderers is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle, and in ePub through Smashwords. You can find out more about it on the Novel News page of Cheryl’s blog, Tales of the Marvelous.
Cheryl is giving away an ebook copy of The Wanderers! To win, please answer this question in the comments below: What’s your favorite fairy tale (classic, retelling, or new original), and why? Please include a way for me to contact you (preferably email address.) The winner will be drawn at random from all comments, and will have 72 hours to respond.