Did you ever wonder how the Dragon Mage world came to be? Perhaps you’ll enjoy this flight of fancy….
Here’s the trouble with writing a series set twenty-nine years in the future — I have to dust off the time machine in the barn in order to interview the protagonists. My husband is less than thrilled about the endeavor.
“I don’t think that thing is safe,” he says, lips pursing and brow furrowing as I move used beekeeping equipment and rusty garden spades aside to reach the contraption hidden underneath. “I thought we’d agreed that neither of us wanted to mess around with time.”
“How am I supposed to write about dragons if I’ve never meet a dragon?” I counter. Then, batting my eyelashes, I feign a pout. “Please, honey?”
Even after over a decade of coupledom, Mark is still an easy mark. Or maybe he just realizes how much the project means to me. Either way, he takes a deep breath and assesses my expectant posture. Finally, shrugging, he gets to work.
“I’ll need to change the oil and put in a new spark plug…” he mutters.
“Great!” I answer, already tiptoeing out of his presence. “I’m gonna grab a notebook, then I’ll be right back.”
The time machine works perfectly. Unfortunately, I forgot one small thing.
My fictional future doesn’t just come complete with dragons. It’s full of terrifying vines that rip and grip at arms and legs before I even make it out of the barn.
Luckily, one of the dragons — Jasper — offered to pick me up, and he arrives in a swirl of fire and smoke. I could tell you all about the ride — streaming through clammy clouds, flapping sunward, swooping in for a picture-perfect landing — but I’ll leave that for one of my novels. You and I are just here to meet the cast. So let’s get started.
“Welcome to the Aerie,” Mason greets me as my feet slide down to land atop the Sunsphere. The globe-topped tower is far more terrifying than I assumed when spinning fiction, and I find myself clinging to my host’s powerful arm even though I’m nowhere near the edge. The Lord Dragon is a perfect gentleman, though, guiding me away from any potential fall while his foster sibling shifts into human form amid a bonfire of unshielded flames.
I don’t realize Jasper has failed to follow us until we’re halfway to the stairs leading down. “Aren’t you coming?” I ask, swiveling to catch his eye.
Jasper shakes his head, relentlessly mute. Right, I didn’t give him a speaking part. Accepting the inevitable, I allow Mason to guide me downstairs until we’ve left the open air behind.
We sidestep ordinary humans, pausing half a dozen times for the Aerie’s top dragon to solve a minor crisis or merely shake a newcomer’s hand. Then, at long last, we step out into the lowest story of the Sunsphere, where I’m greeted by a sixty-nine-year-old woman who I know as well as my own mother.
In fact, I based her on my own mother.
“This is Sarah,” Mason offers, his voice filled with love even though he calls his foster parent by her given name.
“Welcome!” the woman in question greets me, clasping my hand and drawing me into the donut-shaped room. There are three other tall, chiseled men chatting by the far window, each one more handsome than the last. And, as they stand backlit, for a split second I can’t tell them apart.
Then Alexander is breaking away, goofy grin identifying him before I can take in any other physical feature. “Our intrepid author! Killed off any beloved characters lately?”
The room stills, a memory none of us is comfortable with filling the air. As if he hasn’t just made a massive faux pas, Alexander continues. “Or maybe you’re working on writing up a treasure for our Lord Dragon here?”
I narrow my eyes, then am forced to laugh. Leave it to Alexander to bring the issue out into the open and, in the process, steal some of its power to harm. So I tease him in turn. “Just for that, I’m going to leave your story until last. Maybe I won’t write about you at all.”
“Ooh, burn!” Nicholas — the jokester’s twin — wrestles his brother to the ground…only to find himself pinned by Zane’s more wily approach to warfare.
Glancing to the side, I find Sarah’s face full of bittersweet memories. When her foster sons act like small boys, she remembers the other shifter who should be here today but isn’t. I know this because I wrote it that way.
“Mo-om, tell him to get off me,” Nicholas complains, eyes twinkling as he mimics the child he must once have been.
A secret passes between mother and son almost too fast for an outsider to notice. I do recognize, though, that Nicholas is the only one who called his adopted parent by anything other than her real name.
Gotta get that down in my notebook, I think.
But before I can open my mouth, Zane is glancing at the sun. He tenses, and I realize that I’ve already used up the small window of time allotted. “I’ll take you back,” he offers, flicking a lever on the closest wall.
Air roars in to spiral around us, then Zane is leaping into midair, morphing into a massive golden dragon as he falls. Soaring back up to hover one foot past where floor turns into nothingness, he turns his head toward me and waits.
There isn’t time for farewells. Instead, I glance backwards, my eyes locking with Sarah’s for one short second.
“Be careful with their hearts,” she mouths.
Then I’m dragonback once again, racing the clock to return to the time machine Mark left for me in the not-so-dilapidated barn. We land in the burnt patch, which is already beginning to fill back in with scary plant life. Maybe I shouldn’t have made those vines quite so tenacious.
Suddenly, I think I may have stacked the deck just a little too hard against these dragon brothers. They seem like such nice guys…even Alexander. It would be a shame if they can’t hack the hurdles, even more of a shame if Sarah loses more than she can handle in the process.
I hesitate, but Mark made me promise not to leave so much as a hair behind. “Don’t change the future,” he admonished. “You can’t know what impact a single tweak can make.”
So I don’t pull out the bar of chocolate waiting in my pocket in case I need a snack. Even though I want to, I don’t place the promise of pleasure into Zane’s capable hand.
But I do offer up a clue. “Chocolate,” I tell him.
This future world is rough. No more container ships, no massive processing plants. Something I take for granted to prop up a bad day isn’t available down at the corner store because there is no corner store.
But plants still exist, and chocolate comes from plants. It’s possible.
“Ask Nicholas to look it up,” I tell him, walking backwards toward the barn’s open doors. “Then pass the information along to Mason. Sarah will thank you for it.”
Zane doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t bat an eyelash. This most loyal of shifters was sold as soon as I mentioned his foster mother’s name. “Done. Now don’t be late. I promised your husband I’d get you back in time.”
Promised my husband? Mark was so intent upon me using extreme caution when he powered up the time machine for what I thought was its maiden voyage…and he’d visited the future by himself already?
I table the issue, though, because lights around the chassis are flashing. The LEDs don’t do anything, but they’re good for dramatic effect. And every novelist knows stories flow faster when there’s a ticking clock powering along tumultuous scenes.
So I take one last look at the world I created out of thin air…then I step into Mark’s contraption and am spirited back home.
Sighing, I open my eyes and watch dust motes filter through the air above my head. Outside, a warbler is trilling a spring song. There is no time machine behind the clutter. No flashing lights. And, after all, what battery would have been able to power the contraption up nearly three decades in the future?
But the hem of my shirt sports a small round hole, as if a spark flew awry and melted the man-made fabric while I wasn’t looking. And the air smells ever so faintly of smoke.
Time for another day of writing. I’d better get back to the computer and begin.
Read more about Mason, Zane, Nicholas, and company in the Dragon Mage Chronicles…