Wednesday, December 18, 2013

History of The Dragon, Part 2

Hi, folks. I’m late again. I’m afraid that’s going to be the rule rather than the exception while I approach the deadline for Red Wolf Rising. I’m committed to getting the third Red Wolf novel out this Spring, so that’s where my priorities lie until then. Thanks for your patience.
In trying to make the most of my writing time, the historical narrative I’m currently posting serves a dual purpose. The story of The Dragon (aka Pieter, aka Dr. Nigel Petros) provides insightful background material for the Red Wolf saga and readers may find it interesting taking that knowledge into the next two books, Red Wolf Rising and Rivers of Red. But I’m also trying to establish a stronger foundation for the next planned series (the Half Human saga), which is centered around Pieter’s quest to reunite with his kind and perhaps reclaim his crown.

But first…

What I’m Currently Reading…
I finally finished Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Brimstone. To be honest, I got a little tired of Agent Pendergast’s Sherlock-like sleuthing towards the end, and I even found the cliff-hanger ending a bit anti-climactic. Still, I had to give it four stars, because the writing is excellent and it was rewarding to read a well-edited novel after a string of books I’ve come across that didn’t seem to have been edited at all. I’ll definitely read the next few books in the series.

And now I’m delighted to be back in my favorite genre. I’m well into Frost Burned, by Patricia Briggs, the seventh book in her Mercy Thompson series. You might remember this series was number four on my Top Five Paranormal Countdown. I thought the books about this shape-shifting coyote raised by werewolves started to go downhill after Mercy chose a mate, but I felt I owed both her and Briggs another chance. My perseverance has been vindicated. Frost Burned is non-stop action from the get-go.
One of the things I like about Brigg’s werewolf universe is that she occasionally mixes characters from her Alpha and Omega series in with the Mercy Thompson books (and vice versa). She’s got one of my favorite minor characters from Cry Wolf reprised in this one, Asil, the Moor. Great stuff.


Okay, let’s see now. Last week’s post covered all the pre-historical background and brought us forward to the time when the Fae had decided to create vampires in an attempt to destroy mankind. A small group of dissenters, led by Pieter, who had abdicated the dragon throne over the issue, had decided to approach mankind with an offer of help.

History of The Dragon, Part 2…
Although Pieter and his followers all agreed in wanting to help mankind, they faced a number of obstacles in coming together on how that should happen, the biggest of which was a lack of time. The Fae are never ones to make hasty decisions. The plan to create vampires came to fruition only after several millenia of debate. Pieter’s counter-plan to fight them was developed and implemented in under five hundred years. That’s hasty by any Fae standard. Still, it was almost too little and too late.
The Fae unleashed the first vampires on an unsuspecting population around 12,000 BCE. The undead succeeded in killing or turning a significant percentage of humanity within a few centuries. Had mankind not been spread out so thinly across the globe at the time, they would certainly have been destroyed. As it was, many large groups were completely wiped out, significantly slowing the advance of human civilization.

Such was the climate when, sometime around 11,850 BCE, Pieter and two of his dragon allies approached one of the early Mesolithic peoples in what is now the Ukraine looking for volunteers to participate in a desperate experiment. It turned out to be a hard sell.
First contact didn’t go well. The dragons thoughtlessly approached the hunter-gatherers while in their true forms. Dragons being the stuff of nightmares, as you can imagine, these primitive people reacted with fear and aggression. Subsequent attempts at contact in the guise of human form resulted in better communication, but the vampiric plague had not yet reached this section of the globe. The clans were reluctant to rally against a foe they knew nothing of. Generations of humans came and went with no volunteers.
But the dragons kept at it. They planted the seed. And when the first vampires eventually appeared in the Ukraine, people recognized them for what they were. The legends and superstitions became a reality. Finally, the dragons found an audience willing to listen.
The greatest caveat in determining the plan to create the vampires was the elves’ insistence that the Fae not get their own hands dirty in the process of mankind’s destruction. Vampires fit the bill perfectly, since once created, the Fae could step back and watch the deed be done. They wanted as little contact with humans as possible. Pieter’s group was no exception to that rule.
Pieter’s plan called for as little intervention in day-to-day human affairs as possible. What he offered the humans was a way for them to help themselves. While the vampires were a result of dark Fae magic, Pieter wanted to “lend” some light Fae magic to what he already regarded as humanity’s greatest strengths, the ability to quickly reproduce and evolve.1
He proposed to allow selected humans to draw upon the strengths and abilities of some of the powerful beasts around them, giving them the power, when needed, to transform into a supernatural creature capable of fighting and destroying a vampire.
The names of the first volunteers to participate in Pieter’s experiment are lost to antiquity, but they all came from a single clan that controlled a large territory carved out through many generations of strong leadership. These people revered the wolf over all other animals. It was the totem of their clan, and they insisted on choosing that animal from which to draw the strength and cunning they would need to protect themselves from the vampiric threat.
Pieter later admitted he had a more simian creature in mind, but the willingness and cooperation of the volunteers was essential to his plan, so he acquiesced to their choice. The first werewolves appeared on the scene around 11,700 BCE. They went after the undead with a vengeance, and vampires quickly disappeared from the Ukraine.

Unlike Vampirism, which is spread by the bite of a vampire, Lycanthropy is an inherited trait triggered by environmental factors, such as the presence of vampires, the bite of another werewolf, or simply the presence of a significant number of other werewolves (i.e, a pack). The first werewolves were encouraged to spread their seed far and wide, and given that they were gifted with thousand-year life spans, the Lycanthropic gene spread throughout the human population relatively quickly. By 8,000 BCE, the tide of vampirism had been turned.
Pieter’s plan had proven successful, but his satisfaction was short lived. He and his followers were ostracized by the other Fae for what they’d done. He continued to defend his actions, advocating for humanity at every turn and insisting that his peers would soon see the benefits of human survival as mankind evolved into something more worthwhile.
Problem was, mankind provided no evidence to back up Pieter’s arguments.  In fact, they only continued to support the worst fears the Fae had about them. The Neolithic Revolution saw the advent of agriculture, which had a two-fold effect on the Fae. The number of humans on the planet increased exponentially as their food source became more readily available. And, particularly for those of the Fae for whom magic was drawn from the natural flora of their chosen planet, agriculture sucked the magic from their very being.
By the time the first civilizations began to arise in lower Mesopotamia (around 3500 BCE), things had gotten so bad for the Fae they decided to leave Earth. The next five hundred years saw a mass emigration that is estimated to have reduced their population on Earth by almost 90%.
Pieter’s name had become synonymous with hopelessness, failure, and treason. When the dragons decided to join the exodus from the planet, Pieter was not invited to go with them.
It is unlikely he would have joined them in any case. He had committed himself whole-heartedly to the cause of mankind. He wanted to see the future he imagined for them come to fruition. Since the werewolves had succeeded in all but eliminating the scourge of vampirism, he should have been able to retire to another realm and monitor the progress of mankind from a safe distance, as he’d originally planned.
But something happened to change his mind.
The vampires came back.

1  Debate continues among human and Fae alike as to the ability of the Fae to evolve. Some groups contend that, given the nature of life itself, Fae evolution must occur, that we cannot see the evidence of it due to the longevity of individuals. However, there is no documented scientific evidence of mutation in the existing gene pool or in the scant fossil record.

We’ll continue to track Pieter’s activities and conflicts into modern times with the next post. Be on the lookout.
       Until then… Happy Reading!
----------------

My Books
The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                            in Paperback     
ebook for Nook                                              in Charlotte                    
ebook for Kobo                                              Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                                                   in Paperback
ebook for Nook                                                                     in Charlotte
ebook for Kobo                                                                     Smashwords

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

History of The Dragon, Part 1

Hi, folks. This week’s post is a little late, so I’ll apologize to the dozen or so loyal readers of this blog. I’ve had to literally drag myself online the lately for the simple fact that I’m so immersed in finishing up Red Wolf Rising. The third novel in the Red Wolf saga is coming along nicely and I’m excited about how the various characters and their stories are falling in line.
Since the last several weeks were spent sharing an excerpt of Claire’s last visit to The Dragon, and since readers have expressed an interest in the dragons of the Red Wolf universe in general, I thought I’d share some background of the one who originated the Prophecy of the Red Wolf.

I meant this to be a character profile. But dragons are such enigmatic creatures. What follows is more of a history lesson. I’m not sure how much insight it provides into Pieter’s true character. I gave it my best shot.
But first…

What I’m Currently Reading…
is (still) Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Brimstone, which I’m about 80% of the way through at this writing. I’m finding it a bit longish, but that may be due to the way I’m reading it, in little snatches on my bus rides about town. It probably deserves more focus.

Next up on my TBR list is Frost Burned, by Patricia Briggs, the seventh book in her Mercy Thompson series. You might remember this series was number four on my Top FiveParanormal Countdown. I thought the books about this shape-shifting coyote raised by werewolves went downhill when Mercy finally chose a mate in the fifth or sixth novel, but I’m going to give her another chance. Both Mercy and Briggs deserve it.


Okay, let’s see now. About that dragon…

History of The Dragon, Part 1…
The dragons are among the oldest of the Fae, the general term given to the eclectic mix of incredibly long-lived creatures of magic who adopted Earth as their home many millions of years ago. Dragons seem to have appeared sometime during the Late Cretaceous period, and although there is no written history among the Fae, legend speculates they may have originally been attracted to a climate that supported the larger dinosaurs of that time.
The dragon who calls himself Pieter (the Fae never reveal their true names since it would make them more vulnerable to all sorts of magic) claims to have been born here on Earth some twenty-nine-plus million years ago, during a period when the climate was still warm. But he spent his formative years “growing up” in a period when the planet was plunged into a series of ice ages, to which he attributes his fondness for colder weather.
Dragons, like most Fae, are slow to reproduce, but the Oligocene epoch in Earth’s history saw an unusual proliferation. Pieter was among the first of a generation characterized by many mated pairs producing more than one offspring, something almost unheard of before. There is no definitive answer to the question of why this explosion of births occurred, and by the early Miocene epoch it had slowed to normal, but it was a significant factor in the selection of a new dragon king when the old king died sometime in the Langhian Age, because by that time the dragons born on Earth outnumbered the older dragon immigrants.
We will probably never know the specifics of how a dragon becomes King, since the dragons seemed to have lost the desire to have one after Pieter’s abdication of the throne, but it is said to have been largely a process of elimination in trial by combat. Whatever the method, Pieter rose to the throne some fourteen million years ago and is said to have been a capable and magnanimous ruler right up until recent millennia, when an issue involving the fate of humanity split the Fae into two separate camps.

To say the Great Vampire Controversy split the Fae is to also say that it brought them together, because the term Fae was specifically adopted to distinguish all creatures of magic from the native sentient beings that began to evolve on Earth. It was the Elves who coined the term when they first became anxious about sharing the planet.
The Elves had no problem with the creatures that evolved in the sea, such as the whales and dolphins, because they lived in harmony with the magic of nature. It was the land creatures, the humans, whom they feared. These creatures, who bent nature to their will with their ever-increasing technologies, were the stuff of nightmares. Their domestication of plants and animals was sucking the magic from the world. And they reproduced like rabbits, their numbers doubling and tripling with the seasons.
When humans began to create weapons of bronze and iron, substances that posed a physical danger to all creatures of magic, the elves became convinced they must be destroyed. But for such a great task they needed help, so they began to talk with others of “their kind.”
The process of enlisting support for the Elvin cause took nearly three thousand years, during which time human civilization had produced a number of armies. Few of the Fae were willing to risk an all-out war. They needed an alternative plan, and so they created vampires to do the job for them.
The first vampires were created by pooling the magic of the different Fae factions and sacrificing the lives of several Elvin “volunteers.” They were soulless creatures in the image of man, powerful and seductive, offering their victims the choice of an apparent immortality or an ecstatic death. Vampirism was intended to spread like a disease until the entire human population was either dead or undead and thus incapable of reproducing.
The elves found some of their greatest support among the dragons, who were already finding their numbers reduced by human hunters. Most dragons agreed with the Elvin plan, but there was no consensus, because a small faction supported the preservation of mankind. And that small faction was led by King Pieter.
Pieter was intrigued by the humans. In fact, it was rumored he counted a number of them among his friends. He was fascinated with the process of evolution, something alien to the Fae, and he saw in mankind the potential for them to evolve further into beings of even greater worth. And at the pace they were going, he figured the dragons could hunker down and coexist with them until that happened.

As king, Pieter was able to stall the plan to create vampires for millennia, but eventually the power of his office became insufficient to go against the will of the majority of his subjects. Since he could not defend the humans as the Dragon King, he abdicated the throne.
The abdication was unprecedented. There was no protocol in the memory of the dragon race of how to go about choosing a king if one just quit, and it threw dragon society into turmoil. Several dragons claimed the throne, but were unable to unite the rest. Some even insisted that Pieter was still king, whether he liked it or not.
For Pieter, his move had a two-fold purpose. One, it forestalled the plan to create vampires for a bit longer. Two, it gave him free rein to pursue an idea that had been germinating in his mind for some time. If the elves insisted on creating a creature against which humans had no defense, Pieter would create another creature to defend them. He and a small group of followers decided to approach mankind with an offer of help.

If you’ve read the Red Wolf novels, you already know what the offer was. But next week I’ll go into it in more detail, and we’ll finish up a synopsis of what The Dragon’s been up to for the last twelve millennia or so.

Until then… Happy Reading!

----------------

My Books
The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                            in Paperback     
ebook for Nook                                              in Charlotte                    
ebook for Kobo                                              Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                                                   in Paperback
ebook for Nook                                                                     in Charlotte
ebook for Kobo                                                                     Smashwords

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 4

Hi, folks. Had enough to eat yet? Yeah, this is my favorite time of year, the Thanksgiving holiday season here in the United States. It’s all about feasting and… (Well, okay, it’s actually supposed to be about giving thanks, but…) It’s a time when we loosen our belts and eat as much as we possibly can. I love it.

Unfortunately, I just joined Weight Watchers. I know. It’s an insane time of year to start that, but my employer is supplementing a group at work in an effort to support a healthy lifestyle, so what are you gonna do? So it’s been feasting for everyone else and famine for me. Oh, well.
Thank god for my writing. I’m taking out my frustrations on my characters. Someone’s going to pay for this, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
But that’s another story.
This week’s blog wraps up Claire’s visit to the Dragon, part of the back story of Clifford and Claire that will be told in the upcoming Red Wolf Rising, slated for publication in the spring of 2014.
But first…

What I’m Currently Reading…
is Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Brimstone, which was highly recommended to me by my know-it-all-friend-David. I’m enjoying the character of FBI Special Agent Pendergast as he investigates an unfolding series of murders. Or, are they murders? Because it’s beginning to look more and more like the victims maybe sold their souls and the devil is coming to claim his due?

After getting well into the book I’ve discovered this novel is approximately the midpoint of a series. That hasn’t diminished the effect, because the story definitely stands on its own. But I’m tempted to put it down and pick up the earlier novels because… well, just because.

Okay, now let’s wrap up Claire’s last visit to The Dragon.
When we left off last week, Claire had just told The Dragon she could tell Clifford was a werewolf, even though he hadn’t turned yet. The Dragon had remarked what a special talent that was and had asked her for a blood sample, which prompted her to muse upon the changes in the ancient Fae’s behavior since her last visit five hundred years prior…

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 4…
Claire shook herself. Such distractions could wait until later. “O-oh, okay, sure,” she stammered. “Um, Cliff’s wolf is different, too. I mean, I don’t know, it’s not like I can tell he’s an omega, and I certainly wouldn’t try to predict what color fur he’ll have…”

Her face screwed up into a pained expression. “You know, my reasoning sounds so tenuous now that I say it out loud. I don’t have any hard evidence, just a gut feeling. Except… look at me.” She stood and spread her arms wide. “Do I look almost a thousand years old?”
The Dragon nodded. “I see your point. You are remarkably well-preserved, and you feel that the presence of this man has simulated some super-enhanced kind of pack magic, even with his wolf ‘trapped inside,’ as you say.”
“That’s the gist of it.”
 “Well, I’d be inclined to trust your gut. I’m not sure what hard evidence we would look for in a case like this, anyway.” He tapped a talon speculatively against his jaw. “It would be nice to have something, though. When dealing with prophecy, it’s easy to fall into the trap of interpreting things the way you want them to play out.”
“Exactly,” she agreed. “That’s one reason I can’t decide what to do, and why I came to see you.”
One reason. You have others?”
“He has a family, a wife and a small boy. Relationships between our kind and normals are tough at best. In a case like this, I doubt the marriage would survive.”
The Dragon stiffened. “We’ve all made sacrifices for the good of mankind. If he is the Red Wolf of Prophecy…”
“And what if he’s not? I don’t want to be responsible for ruining his life.”
The Dragon uncoiled himself a bit and stretched his neck across the table, peering closely at her. “You have feelings for him?”
She felt herself blush. “I… uh…” Self-consciously, she glanced at Sethmus.
“I ain’t saying’ nothing,” he grinned.
She sighed. “There’s an attraction, yes.”
The Dragon pulled his head back across the table, nodding. “And you’re worried that may be clouding your judgment,” he suggested.
She nodded.
“Actually,” The Dragon continued, “your attraction to him might be another indication he’s the one. We would expect a profound element of charisma in a male omega. It would be more subtle than the sexual attraction of an alpha male, but unlike that of an alpha, an omega female, such as yourself, would not be immune to it.” He again began tapping his talon against his jaw.
The tapping increased in speed. Finally, it stopped and The Dragon straightened. “Yes,” he concluded. “Yes, I think you should do it.”
“You think he’s the one, then?”
The air rustled across the room as he shrugged his wings. “There’s only one way to find out for sure. I think it will be worth whatever risks to his present lifestyle. If his wolf is ‘screaming to get out’ like you say, he should be happier for being turned, regardless.”
“Probably so,” she agreed. The relief was evident on her face. “That makes sense. And perhaps some of that happiness will spread into his marriage.”
“Perhaps it will. But, Claire, you must not tell him about the prophecy. At least, not right away.”
 “What? Why not?”
The Dragon leaned forward. “Even if he is a red wolf, even if he is an omega, even if he has abilities unlike any other, he still might not be the one destined to unite the packs. If he thinks he is, he may try to force himself to fit the prophecy. Think how dangerous that would be.”
“Then how will we know?”
He sighed and shifted his position. “Ah, that is a conundrum. If we can rely on the prophecy, we must trust it will be revealed over time, but…
“Consider. Had he been born to you as we expected, any special abilities would have been triggered by the natural stressors of going through adolescence and young adulthood. As his abilities were revealed, a nurturing pack environment would have allowed him to hone the skills necessary to manage those abilities.
“Your middle-aged Clifford Crane won’t have any of that. There will be much he’ll have to unlearn just to function as a wolf, much less wrap his head around how to deal with powers no one can teach him how to use. I’m not even sure it would be a good idea to introduce him to a pack right away. It might be too much of a shock.
“And as far as saving the world… Well, what sort of leadership skills has he developed throughout his human life? Do you know anything of his past? What does he do for a living?”
“He does something with computers. As for his past, uh… well, the only thing I’ve learned about him is that he spent most of his adult life using drugs.” She winced at her own words. “But he’s in recovery now.”
“What? He’s a drug addict? Gods, you’re telling me the Red Wolf of Prophecy is a drug addict?”
“In recovery.”
“What does that mean?”
“Uh, it means he used to be a drug addict. He hasn’t done any drugs in ten years or more. He doesn’t even drink alcohol. He seems… pretty stable…” She trailed off uncertainly, “…to me.”
The Dragon muttered something to himself in a language she didn’t understand. She got the gist of it telepathically, however.
He shook his head slowly. “Okay, okay, all the more reason to go slowly. Turn him. See what his wolf is like. If he shows promise, stay close to him. Help him adapt to life as a wolf, but don’t go parading him in front of a pack until you’re absolutely sure what he is.”
Absolutely sure? But, how am I supposed…”
The Dragon stood and shrugged his huge wings one last time. “It will have to be up to you to decide. I have faith in you. You must have faith in yourself. Now, you will have to excuse me. There are some things I must attend to.” He looked at Sethmus. “Will you get a blood sample for me?” He turned back to her. “That is, if you don’t mind?”
“Uh, sure.” She spread her hands. “I guess.”
“It was truly good to see you again.” He turned and lumbered towards an arched exit at the back of the lab, where he stopped and turned before ducking through. “Claire,” he said, “the better you get to know Clifford Crane, the better you will be able to recognize whatever greatness is in him. Allow yourself to feel. Go ahead and fall in love with him. Better yet, allow him to fall in love with you.”
He was gone.


    What the... You mean, that’s it? This Dragon character is a bit enigmatic for my tastes. Maybe a follow-up character profile could provide us some insight. Perhaps next week? Until then… Happy Reading!
----------------

My Books
The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                            in Paperback     
ebook for Nook                                              in Charlotte                    
ebook for Kobo                                              Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------


Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                                                   in Paperback
ebook for Nook                                                                     in Charlotte
ebook for Kobo                                                                     Smashwords

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 3


Hi, folks. I missed you guys last week while I was a bit under the weather. But, I’m back now, none the worse for wear, and ready to continue with Claire Deerfoot’s last visit to The Dragon.

But first, let’s check the old TBR list…

What I’m Currently Reading…

…is nothing. Well, not nothing. I’ve been reading over my first novel, The Draculata Nest, in preparation for a re-edit, which may include an additional story line and even a re-release under a different title. At any rate, I don’t know if that counts as reading. (I did enjoy it, though. It’s a good book. J )

I finished  Devyn Dawson’s The Legacy of Kilkenny. I’m only giving it three stars. I honestly liked the story, its characters and pace, but I can’t recommend it due to some major flaws, all of which could have been corrected with a bit of editing.


The novel is written from the first person, present tense, point of view. So (so, so, sooooo) many writers are using this POV these days. It has to be difficult to have a story unfold before the reader’s eyes as it happens while still providing background information or looking through a different character’s eyes. Dawson stumbles with it, often changing tenses, sometimes within the same sentence. She flips back and forth between the two main characters by titling each chapter with the character’s name, but since both characters have such a similar voice, I found myself regularly turning back a few pages to figure out who was doing the narration.
The author also came up with her own rules of punctuation, or often abandoned them altogether. Sentences were separated by commas or simply run together. I got used to it after a while, because the story grabbed my interest, but I had to stop regularly to puzzle out who was saying what and how.

Here’s an interesting footnote to the above criticisms. There’s a sneak peak chapter or two of the sequel at the end of the Kindle version. With the second book, the author has abandoned the present tense, although she still uses a first person POV, and the punctuation problems have been completely erased. I even found –low and behold – a semicolon in one of the first few pages!

Next up on my TBR list is Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Brimstone. It came highly recommended by my know-it-all-friend David, but I haven’t started it yet.

 
Okay, now…
When we left off last week two weeks ago, Claire Deerfoot had found the entrance to The Dragon’s lair, and Sethmus The Smith was about to lead her within…

 

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 3…

The lair was mostly as she’d remembered. A maze of tunnels connected small rooms and cavernous halls for miles under what was today Doughton Park, a favorite recreation area along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“You’re lucky,” Sethmus informed her as he led the way through enough twists and turns to thoroughly destroy her sense of direction, “since we didn’t know you were coming. Pieter’s hardly ever here these days, but it just so happens he dropped in this week to use the lab.”
“Lab?”
“Yeah, it’s new since you were here last. Really something, too. Dr. Pet… I mean, Pieter…” He stopped in mid-sentence. His expression suggested he’d said more than he should. “Uh, he probably ought to be the one to fill you in on the details. Suffice it to say, you’ll be impressed.”

And impressed she was, when she found herself there a short time later, wrapped in a too-large robe Sethmus had hastily pulled from a storeroom along the way. She sat at a long work table, surrounded by banks of computers and laboratory equipment that looked like it might be intended for some kind of medical research.
Pieter had chosen to receive her in his true form instead of the Doctor Pet-something persona Sethmus had almost let slip before. The huge green dragon sat folded comfortably on the floor across the table from her and spoke in a rich baritone. His voice made a strange echo. She heard it both in her ears and in her mind.

“This is an unexpected pleasure, Claws-On-The-Foot. I had given up hope of ever seeing you again. You look well.”
“Thanks,” she said. “You can call me Claire. It’s easier. Sorry to show up un-announced, but… well, I wouldn’t know how to go about announcing it anyway.”
The Dragon nodded. “It’s not a problem. You seem to have chosen a serendipitous time, what with the moon and stars aligned correctly to reveal the trail and myself having dropped by on a whim. Perhaps,” he spread his wings in an odd shrugging gesture, “it was meant to be.”
“Like, part of the Prophecy?”
Again the shrug. “Whatever the reasons, it is good to see you. Ah, he’s back.”

Sethmus entered the room carrying a small tray, from which he took a steaming cup of soup and placed it in front of her. She wrapped her still-cold fingers around it gratefully. “Thanks,” she said. Sethmus nodded and took a seat at the far end of the table with a cup of his own.

“So you believe you’ve found the Red Wolf of Prophecy,” said The Dragon, raising a scaly brow ridge.
She nodded, taking a sip of the soup and sighing appreciatively. “You sound skeptical,” she said.
“It is a bit of a surprise, at this late date.” He sighed. “I want to believe you. But, I’m afraid to get my hopes up.”
“Then we’re kind of on the same page. It’s why I came here.”
The Dragon slowly nodded his huge head. “Please, go on.”

“I left here last time, after you gave me the prophecy, assuming the white omega was me, that Swifter-Than-Deer and I would bring a son into the world who would be the male omega. That’s what you led me to believe.” She looked to him for confirmation.

The Dragon shifted his position, took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly through his nostrils. The temperature of the room rose slightly, and Claire detected an odor of sulfur. “That’s how I interpreted the Prophecy, too… at the time.”

Claire waited for him to elaborate, but he didn’t. “Okay,” she continued. “Uh… so I knew the two boys I already had weren’t omega wolves. I expected to get pregnant again soon, but I… never got the chance… after…” Unexpected emotion closed her throat. She tried to dismiss it with a wave of her hand. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” said The Dragon. “Our tears are the purest eulogy.”

His kind, gentle tone invited a flood. But she blinked back the tears and cleared her throat. “When I lost my husband and sons, I believed, in time, I would find another mate.” She shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough? Anyway, it never happened, and eventually I figured I wasn’t the one, after all. I accepted it, but I thought… maybe one of my descendants?”

The Dragon nodded. “Yes, I followed that same line of thought. And when other omega females were born I wondered if the chosen one was not to be Uwharrie after all. Then I wondered if the white part in the prophecy referred to purity instead of color. To this day, after a thousand years, you are still the only omega with white fur.”

“And the only Uwharrie omega,” she added. “But I have a niece - or, rather, a great-great-great grand niece – who I suspect may be omega. She’s only sixteen, and her wolf has not yet emerged. At least I don’t think so. She ran away from home a few years ago. I was trying to find her when I ran across Clifford Crane.
“It was completely by accident. I was out hunting along a greenway in Charlotte, just before dawn. He was out jogging. I was drawn to him…”

A snigger came from the end of the table.

“It wasn’t like that, Sethmus,” she glared. “I thought I explained that before. Why do you assume I have the hots for this guy?”
“Whoa, easy now.” Sethmus threw his huge hands up like a shield, chuckling. He grinned at The Dragon. “Pieter, me thinks she doth protest too much!”

The Dragon’s expression might have been one of amusement. It was hard to tell. Nevertheless, he admonished his companion, “Sethmus, please. Let her tell us what she’s found.”

Sethmus gave a what-did-I-do shrug. He started to say something, thought better of it, clamped his mouth shut, and folded his arms across his massive chest.

Claire cleared her throat. “Anyway,” she continued, “once I met him in person, it was obvious he was a wolf.”
“Ah,” interjected The Dragon, “you are able to see that in someone before the wolf comes out? That’s a rare gift, isn’t it?”
“It’s unusual,” she confirmed. “I do know a few others who have the talent.”
“Are you a hundred percent accurate?”
“Noooo… not always. I mean, I don’t always see it. It’s more obvious in some than others. When I see it, I’m never wrong. With Cliff, it’s very obvious, like his wolf is trapped and screaming to come out.”

“Hmm,” he rumbled, “interesting. Remind me to get a blood sample from you before you leave. I’d love to run some tests. But… go on.”
Claire frowned. Blood sample? Tests? The way he said it was incongruent for a dragon, such a quintessential creature of magic. She glanced around at all the modern laboratory equipment, and a thousand questions popped into her head.

 
      Okay, that's all for now. More to come next week in part 4, the final part of this chapter. Until then… Happy Reading!
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