Doom of Dragonback extract

As the End Times engulf the Warhammer world, why not read something from the other end of the historical scale? In celebration of reaching 4,000 followers on Twitter I present to you an extract from Doom of Dragonback, my forthcoming Time of Legends novel for Black Library, pre-orders available now! And if you like this,. there’s an extended e-book extract available, following a rumbunctious goblin hunt. Doom of Dragonback will be on general sale from the 5th September.

 

Doom-of-Dragonback

‘Fetch me that firebox, Haldi,’ said Skraffi. ‘And there’s some dried leaves in a sack over by the window.’

‘It’s Haldora,’ she replied, seeking out the objects as directed. The firebox was small enough to fit into her palm, about as deep as her thumb, made of tin, heavily dented and scratched. She checked the flint and it sparked nicely. Fetching out the sack of leaves, she handed the firebox to Skraffi and stepped towards the window.

‘It’s a good spot,’ she said, looking out. The glass was thick and filled with air bubbles – discards from the bottle plant she realised but it was clean and beyond she could see down one of the vales and had a good view of the majesty of the moun­tains to the north. Out of sight was the coast, and in her mind’s eye, recalling the maps Gramma Awdie had shown her as a youngster, she moved her inner eye up the seashore to the gulf at the top of the Dragonback Peaks. Further still Blood River emptied into the gulf, where the Barak Varr stood, its massive sea gates guarding the largest ships of the dwarf empire.

Dwarfs were not much for travelling on water, using the riv­ers only as needed and the sea even more rarely. It was hard to believe that huge galleys and triremes from Barak Varr had patrolled the coast, clashing with elven hawkships and merw­yrms. That was about the closest Ekrund had come to actual battle – most of its warriors marched to the defence of Barak Varr but had seen no fighting in the Dragonbacks themselves.

‘If the elves never reached Ekrund, what makes you worry the orcs will?’ she asked, turning to Skraffi. ‘I mean, the elves had ships and dragons. What’ve orcs got?’

‘Wyverns,’ grunted Skraffi. He was stuffing leaves into a fun­nel-shaped contraption, about the size of a helmet. When Haldora looked more closely she saw it actually was a helmet, with a length of pipe inserted into the top and a leather bag riveted on the bottom.

Skraffi stood up and placed the helmet-device to one side. He threw a long scarf to Haldora and started to wrap another around his face. He pulled it down for a moment to speak.

‘And the elves came from all across the world. Orcs are just a few days march away, even if the rangers don’t see them.’

‘Hiding, are they?’ said Haldora.

‘They can be clever, you know. And if there’s anything more dangerous than an orc, it’s an orc that can think a little.’

Haldora snorted at the thought and wrapped her face with the scarf, leaving only her eyes uncovered. She rammed on the wide-brimmed hat that Skraffi threw to her next and pulled on a set of heavy gauntlets she found drooped over the edge of a shelf. At a gesture from Skraffi she picked up a pile of blankets and pushed her way towards the door, her face already starting to prickle with sweat.

Outside she let the blankets drop to the ground and rolled them out with her foot while Skraffi busied himself with his helmet-machine and firebox. Soon a thin dribble of smoke was leaking from the pipe in the helmet.

They picked up a blanket between them and walked over to the closest hives. The two of them lifted the blanket overhead like a roof, and then Skraffi started to let smoke pour from the helmet, dousing the bee colonies with grey fume.

Haldora fought the urge to close her eyes as bees by the score swarmed from the hives, convinced that their colonies were on fire. Skraffi motioned with his head and they set aside the blanket. Haldora hurried back to the shed to fetch the specially-lined crates Skraffi stored there for taking the honeycomb. By the time she had returned he had opened up the first hive and was removing the delicate produce of the bees’ labour.

Careful not to break a corner or spill a drop of honey, Skraffi moved the honeycomb into one of the crates while Haldora went to fetch more. She had just stepped out of the shed with another crate in her hands when she saw Skraffi hurrying towards her, waving her back.

‘What is it?’ she called out, but the scarf muffled everything she said.

Skraffi knocked the crates out of her hands and grabbed her sleeve to drag her into the shed. He carefully closed the door behind them and stood with his back to it. He dragged down his scarf and took a long breath,

‘Troll,’ he whispered.

Haldora’s heart leapt at the word, and she quickly freed her face from the wrapping of smoke-smelling wool.

‘Where?’ She moved to the window and peered out, but could see nothing.

‘In the woods. I don’t know if it saw me.’ It was getting murky inside the shed and Skraffi realised he had the smoke-can in hand. He shut it off and placed it on a shelf beside a collection of broken firebox flints.

‘We’ll have to wait it out.’ Haldora leaned as far forward as she could, until she could just see the end of the row of hives to the right, and beyond that the smear of green and brown that was the trees distorted in the glass. There was nothing else there. ‘How can we tell when it’s gone?’

‘The beardlings…’ Skraffi’s eyes widened with alarm. ‘Down the path on the goat pastures and fields. We have to raise the alarm.’

‘How?’ Haldora looked around the shed. The only weapons were a short-handled shovel and the all-purpose knife that hung at her belt, and a small hand axe at Skraffi’s hip. ‘Neither of us is strong enough to fight a troll.’

Skraffi said nothing, deep in thought. A spluttering cough, deep and close, sounded outside, followed by the crack of splintering wood.

‘It’s breaking into the hives,’ said Skraffi. There was des­peration in his eyes. ‘We can’t… We need that honey. The meadery… Your father will make me sell up if I can’t at least keep up the brewing.’

‘Is it worth getting killed over? I’ll talk to pa, make sure he doesn’t close the meadery.’

‘He’s just looking for an excuse, mark my words.’

‘You’re still the oldest in this family, he can’t push you around.’ Haldora dropped her voice as she heard snuffling and snorting growing louder. The sound of grotesque chewing could also be heard, slavering jaws mashing raw honeycomb and wood at the same time.

‘Truth is, Awdhelga was always the one in charge. I’m not much for standing up to folks, never have been. I think that’s why she liked me. “Meek, not weak” she used to say.’

‘Then I’ll stand up for you too,’ said Haldora.

‘It’s no good,’ said Skraffi, turning around, his hand moving to the door latch.

‘What are you going to do?’ snapped Haldora. ‘Shout at it? It’s a troll. We can’t hurt it. We can’t outrun it. We have to hide until it goes away and then try to raise the alarm.’

Something heavy brushed against the door. Haldora froze, heart hammering, as the pad of heavy feet moved around the shed. Skraffi motioned towards the door with an inquiring glance but Haldora shook her head. If the troll came on them in the open they wouldn’t stand a chance and the trees were too far away.

Both of them flinched as something thudded against the stonework. A long rasping filled the shed as claws were dragged down the roof, in places splitting the wood. Haldora moved

to the other side of Skraffi and started looking over the shelves and under the tables, desperate to find something, anything that could help.

‘Oh dear.’

She looked up at Skraffi’s subdued exclamation, to see a flat grey face and gigantic eye peering at the window.

‘Stay still,’ she told him. It was not that bright inside the outhouse and from what she could remember trolls had poor eyesight. The glass was buckled and bubbled enough that per­haps it wouldn’t see them.

The troll turned its head to switch eyes. It was massive, bend­ing almost double to look inside the dwarven shed. She saw shoulders flexing and a hand crashed onto the roof. The troll pushed its head closer, smearing the windows with saliva, snot and honey. The wooden frame creaked and Haldora darted a look of alarm at Skraffi.

‘Fixed the jamb meself,’ he said with a confident nod. ‘It’ll take more than…’

His voice drifted away and Haldora looked back at the win­dow. The frame was buckling, the individual pieces of glass rattling as the monster let out heavy breaths.

‘You go,’ said Skraffi. He stepped away from the door. ‘I’ll keep it occupied here. You make a run to warn the youngsters and get to the tower at Funnock’s Elbow.’

‘No!’ Haldora thrust a hand out to push Skraffi back from the window but it was too late.

The troll gave an intrigued grunt and slapped a hand to the glass. Wood fractured and part of the frame gave way on the right. Thick fingers with broken claws pushed through the gap, scraping at the stone sill.

Haldora couldn’t stand it anymore. She dragged out her knife and lunged forward, burying it to the hilt in the back of the troll’s hand. It greeted the attack with a bemused grunt and pulled its hand free. Haldora clung onto the knife, dragging it

out of the troll as the hand withdrew. Brownish blood dripped onto the shelf below the window and seeped down the pages of a tattered book on bee-keeping.

With a roar that almost threw Haldora from her feet in shock and fear, the troll slammed two fists against the window. The frame gave way, showering glass and wood fragments over the two dwarfs within. A hand reached for Haldora – the back of it sporting a freshly-healed scar, she noticed as it swept the room, seeking anything to grab.

She ducked under the swiping paw and rolled to the base of the shelf. Skraffi backed as far into the corner as he could, his small axe in hand, teeth bared in a snarl. More glass crashed to the floor as the troll forced in the rest of its arm to the shoul­der, broad head wedged in the gap beside it. Haldora couldn’t stop a shriek as a clawed hand waved just in front of her face, yellowed talons scraping at the wood of the shelf, dislodging knick-knacks and cracking pottery dishes and bowls.

 

Published in: on September 1, 2014 at 10:08 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Is this the 3rd book in the time of legends, war of vengeance series?
    Or a stand alone time of legends book.
    Thanks

    Like

    • Hi,

      This is a one-off tale, which takes place a few decades after the War of Vengeance.

      Gav

      Like


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