THE FLIGHT OF THE DARKSTAR DRAGON by Benedict Patrick – Excerpt and Character Art!
To celebrate the preorder of The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon, the first in a new fantasy adventure series from Yarnsworld author Benedict Patrick, all this week some of the premier websites from the fantasy community are sharing extracts from the novel’s first chapter, as well as revealing some exclusive character art from artist Juliana Wilhelm.
Firstly, here’s Darkstar Dragon‘s official blurb for those who aren’t yet familiar with it:
Impossible world. Impossible dragon. Impossible adventure.
Lost with her ship and crew in an unfamiliar land, Min’s first command could be her last.
Nothing here behaves the way it should:
The magic that powers her skyship has been drained, rendering it immobile.
The sky is an endless twilight, lit by the luminous fish that swim in it.
Off starboard, there’s also the country-sized dragon that is looking particularly hungry.
It will take all of Min’s training and experience to get her people safely back home, but as the truth about the Darkstar Dimension begins to be revealed, Min will have to prove to her crew – and to herself – that she is still the best person for the job.
I can personally confirm that the story itself is just as awesome as the blurb and cover art promises it to be!
Now, on to the Hive-exclusive goodies. Our art is of Jedda Bookish, artificer aboard the Melodious Narwhal:
The Narwhal is a skyship, and one of Jedda’s key jobs is tending to the magical apparatus that keeps it airborne. She is also a bit of a gaming fiend!
The following is the second part of the opening chapter (head to the Darkstar Dragon launch page to catch up on the story so far before reading on!)
The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon
Chapter One, Part Two
“Jedda!” Min shouted as she burst into the Narwhal’s belly, the room that housed the ship’s core.
The crystal core should have been brimming with magical energy. Min never tired of coming down here to look at the hypnotic blue light playing under the core’s surface; the magical power that New Windward’s artificers had captured within, enough to power a skyship for over a decade, if needed.
That light, however, was now absent.
The Narwhal’s core was a shadow of its former self. Usually, Min struggled to look directly at it, so bright were the powers that played within. Now, the core pulsed only a dull blue, and Min could swear its colour was draining before her.
The core was losing its magic.
As if to confirm her realisation, the Narwhal gave another lurch, more violent this time, sending Min sprawling to the now terribly tilted floor.
“Jedda!” she shouted, the ship’s artificer nowhere to be seen. “Where in Frathuda’s windowless hell are you? I need to know what’s going on.”
A head of black hair bobbed up from the other side of the core, the young woman’s bronze eyes magnified by the pair of goggles Jedda had strapped over her face, sweat running down her dark brown skin. The look would almost be comical, if not for how terrified and lost Jedda seemed at that moment.
“What’s going on?”
Jedda, eyes wide, looked from Min to the core to her various artificer’s tools, now tipped to the aft end of the room; the floor of the Narwhal canted at an angle that made Min think of childhood adventures, scrambling across the pitched roofs of the Goryeoan quarter back home.
“Ship’s tipping,” Jedda said, sounding surprised Min even had to ask.
The Narwhal gave another lurch. Min, heart thumping, glared at Jedda, and took a deep breath. Jedda was brilliant, the best artificer Min had ever worked with, but the woman could be a little… odd. Especially in stressful situations, which was why she had been posted to a research vessel instead of a military ship.
Min nodded sharply, not able to hide her urgency from her movements. “And why’s that, Jedda? What’s wrong with the core?”
Jedda, her wide eyes reminding Min of a rodent caught in a campfire light, looked to the core again, then back to her commanding officer.
“It’s leaking magic, Min. Losing it quick. Never seen anything like it before.”
“Any idea why?”
Jedda looked around, as if the answer should be standing in the room somewhere.
“Never seen anything like it before. It just… it just shouldn’t be possible, Min. Even with all the crystals running full pelt, I’ve never seen a drain like it. Ancestors, I don’t think ten crystal arrays could do this.”
“How long do we have left?”
Answering Min’s question for her, the Narwhal lurched again, but this time it did not stop.
Min felt light-footed, as if deck was slowing dropping from beneath her. All around, a dull roaring began. Her throat tightened when she realised it was the sound of the air rushing past as the Narwhal fell through the sky.
Min and Jedda locked eyes, and for a heartbeat the first officer just froze. None of her experience, none of the countless expeditions she had gone on during her apprenticeship, had prepared her for this. Skyships just did not fall from the sky.
“Jedda, I need options,” Min barked, dodging past some artificer tool that had been thrown to the floor, but was now bouncing back up the deck as gravity lost its grip on everything inside the plummeting ship. “And I’m talking about the falling skyship, damn it – don’t dare ask me what I’m talking about.”
Jedda gulped, then looked to the dead core. “We’re not full velocity, not yet,” the artificer said. “Core’s dead, but the crystals’ll still have some juice left in them, should still be pushing back a bit. Probably the only reason we’re not glued to the ceiling.” Min felt the distant hum of the Narwhal’s crystal array through the deck her hand was resting on, and could tell Jedda was right, even though the hum was inconsistent.
“Right,” Min acknowledged, preparing to guide her artificer’s thoughts, “how do we fix this?”
“There’s no way to power the core, Min. It takes a team of artificers weeks to fully charge one, and that’s a healthy core without leaks.”
“Forget the core, then. What about the rest of the ship? We’ve got to have something else on board to—”
“To make us fly?” Jedda scoffed. “Why would we have something like that? We’ve got a core.”
“That isn’t working.”
“But that should never happen! We don’t make fail-safes for impossibilities. Without the core, the ship can’t fly. That’s it.”
Min thumped the wall in frustration. “What about the sails? Can we do anything with the sails?”
Jedda shook her head. “Nope. They’re good for getting places, not for going up or down. The speed we’re falling at, they’ve already been ripped to shreds by the pressure. The only material we have on board that could cope with this sort of strain is—”
Jedda ripped off her goggles, staring at Min.
“What is it, Jedda?”
“The guidance wings. Maybe the guidance wings…”
For a heartbeat, Min stared back at the artificer, then she bolted out the door behind her, ignoring Jedda’s continued shouts.
The Narwhal’s guidance wings were a terrible idea. They were used for gliding, not to pull the Narwhal out of a plummet, but since Min expected them to impact the land below with a crunch at any moment, the small wings were a dice roll she was willing to take a bet on.
It was easy getting back above deck. With the Narwhal almost vertical, its nose pointed toward whatever lay below, every step Min took felt like flight, the floor falling away at the same speed as the vessel plunging through the air.
Outside, the Narwhal was in chaos. The purple vastness of wherever they now found themselves spread out above Min, with the unbolted belongings of the Narwhal’s deck streaming through the emptiness above her like the tail on a kite. The sky around them remained saturated with stars, but with other objects as well; strange, swirling blobs of colour that reminded Min of the confusing maps of planets that astronomers promised they could see through their telescopes.
Min should have been focussed on the imminent destruction of her ship, but instead she was captivated by the large object that appeared in the sky to her port side.
A sphere. A massive, glowing, purple sphere. Clearly vast, clearly far from her, clearly the source of the purple hue that saturated the Narwhal and her crew.
What in Gorya’s frigid hell?
“First Officer!” came a shout that drew Min’s attention back to the almost-vertical deck.
It was Sung, gripping hard at the railing. Min spotted a length of rope binding the mate’s arm to the relative safety of the Narwhal. Despite her rising terror, Min was relieved to see the rest of Sung’s watch safe as well, having copied their commanding officer’s actions, clinging on to hope with tight knots and white knuckles.
Grunting, straining to keep a grip on the wood, despite the fact that the ship was doing its very best to fall away from her, Min inched her way from the main hatch, toward the mechanism for the guidance wings.
Her first command, she thought, gritting her teeth as she pulled herself across to the edge of the deck. Not even a captain yet, but she had command of a ship. She had a crew. The first out of all her cohort from the academy.
And on their first mission – just a simple, stupid research task – she was going to lose them all.
Swearing at the top of her voice over the roaring wind, Min kicked the lever that held the guidance wings in check, shouting with triumph as she booted the lever free, moving the mechanism that would allow the wings to spring into position.
Incredulous, Min looked over the side to see what had gone wrong.
She should have focussed on the wings, to see where the release mechanism had failed.
Instead, Min looked below, and her head swam.
They were falling, she knew. She was looking straight down, but the view below did not seem to be any different from that above her. More purple-soaked emptiness, more distant stars.
How could they be falling toward the stars?
She shook her head, forcing herself to look at the wings again. If they were falling, they were falling toward something. Even if she could not see it properly at the moment, Min was damned if she was going to let her ship hit whatever was waiting for them below.
The chain that held the guidance wings in place was flopping in the air, buffeted by the velocity of the Narwhal’s fall. The lever had worked fine.
Instead, the wings remained pinned against the Narwhal’s hull.
“It’s the force of the air,” Jedda shouted from just behind, causing Min to jump. She turned, shocked to see the artificer had followed from below. Jedda had ropes clipped to her belt, and was using them to tether herself to different points on the Narwhal’s deck. Hastily, working as she continued to speak, Jedda began fastening a similar contraption to her commanding officer.
“We’re falling too fast,” the artificer explained. “The wings weren’t designed to open under such strain. There’s nothing on board that has the strength to get them open, now.”
Min felt her heart sink, but not because she agreed with Jedda. The artificer was wrong – they did have something on board strong enough to get the job done.
“I think it’s time we visited the arsehole,” Min said.
The story continues tomorrow over at RockStarlit BookAsylum – check out the Darkstar Dragon launch page to keep track of the next story and character reveals.
The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon releases on 7th October, and is available to preorder NOW.
As a special ‘thank you’ to those first in the queue, Benedict is also offering a brand new, exclusive short story set in his Yarnsworld series to those who preorder Darkstar Dragon. Forward your proof of purchase to firstname.lastname@example.org to get your hands on Mister Rattlebones today!