Authors: Diane Rapp
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Historical, #Sword & Sorcery, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Colonization, #Galactic Empire, #Teen & Young Adult
Heirs to the Throne, Book 3
By Diane Rapp
Reviews and comments:
“How can an author skillfully and intelligently weave a story of interest about a planet inhabited by wise telepathic wolves, dragons who communicate via colors and humans whose social structure mimics feudal eras? I had to find out. Diane Rapp has masterfully woven a magnificent blend of fantasy and science fiction genres within this new novel in her series, HEIRS TO THE THRONE. Although third in the series, DRAGON DEFENSE is written with integrity and can stand splendidly on its own merits. The human, wolf and dragon characters’ talents and interactions in their varied locales on Planet Drako are expertly integrated.” Doreen Cox
“Fantastic friendly dragons, telepathic wolves and humans, a space ship crew bent on destroying the planet, and a feudal system under reform by “spacers” from Earth who make the planet Drako their second home. What more could a reader want? Diane Rapp’s imagination appears boundless and her ability to bring a story to life is impressive. I enjoyed this third installment of the Drako adventure as much as the first two novels in the Heirs to the Throne series.” Arleen Alleman
“The story is told with humor and pathos. It moves with the pace of a thriller, and the characters are personable – even the wolves and the dragons will engage the reader on a personal level. It was great fun to read. If you haven’t already read
Howl of the Wolf
, buy all three books today. You’ll want to read them straight through – they’re that good.” Charles L. Dougherty
“This is the third book in the ‘Heirs to the Throne’ series and it may be my favorite. But then again, I happen to love anything that Diane Rapp composes. She is one of my favorite authors; with her musical prose I can truly envelope myself in the story.” Kathleen Patel
I dedicate this book to the memory of science fiction author Anne McCaffrey, who passed away on November 21, 2011 at the age of 85. A Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master, Anne McCaffrey won many prestigious awards during her 46-year career. I fell in love with her
Dragon Riders of Pern
series, read every book she published, and plan to reread them often. Anne McCaffrey inspired me to write science fiction and I’m grateful for the role model.
My appreciate goes to generous friends who read the original manuscript and offered helpful suggestions and corrections. Mary Mitchum, Arleen Alleman, Charles L. Dougherty, Kathleen Patel, and Doreen Cox each donated time and expertise to completion of this project. I thank my husband, Corey, for being patient and for taking me to dinner often during the process of creating Drako. Special thanks go to Luke O’Donnell who listened to my ideas, read sections of my book to visualize the scene, and produced a beautiful book cover.
Cover designed by Luke O’Donnell, visit
Other images in the book:
Diane Rapp created the images inside the book using stock art purchased and licensed from Shutterstock.com. The individual art pieces were assembled and modified to help readers visualize a few characters and scenes from the author’s imagination.
The character of the wolf was inspired by my German Shepherd, Kriegen. He didn’t describe the planet Drako (but I’m sure he tried sending me mental messages every day). Friends on Twitter kindly suggested names for new wolves and I’ve included them as wolves in Kriegen’s pack. You might imagine your dogs touching noses with Kriegen in this edition. The other characters in the book are fictitious and any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. To my knowledge there is no company or scientific group similar to the “Institute.” I used the name fictitiously with no intent to disparage scientific research into cloning. I recently learned there is a team called the Huskers, but I’m sure they’ll forgive me for calling the wild boars the dragons hunt by that name. One follower suggested a sequel where the huskers can get revenge against the dragons (smile).
Copyright © 2012 Diane Rapp
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this book may be used, reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or distributed by any means (electronic, photocopied, recorded, or mechanical) without prior written permission of the copyright owner and publisher of this book except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
(New readers please note. A summary of books 1 and 2, Cast of Character, and Definition of Terms can be accessed through the clickable Table of Contents.)
As he crested the steep mountain trail, needles of pain stabbed Jake’s chest. Gasping, he plopped onto a boulder and wiped sweat from his brow. He tilted his head back, closed his eyes, and hoped the pain might ease. His leathery skin soaked in the heat until a shadow darkened the sky.
Jake’s eyelids snapped open. A desert rider sat atop a fearsome warhorse, Jake’s worst fear. Was he going deaf? How could a rider approach without sound? Jake leapt from the boulder and gauged the distance to the woods.
“Don’t try it, old man. An entire caravan could sneak up on you.” The warrior’s robe billowed in the breeze and his black eyes glinted with light reflected from the mirror finish of his scimitar.
Jake cringed. Could the warrior read his thoughts? “We don’t see desert riders in these mountains. How can I help you, milord?”
White teeth gleamed against dark skin. “I search for a girl of uncommon beauty, tall with dark hair and black eyes. She lives in these mountains with an old woman.”
“Shariel fits your description.” Jake relaxed sure he could trade information. “That girl’s got hair as black as a moonless night, dark eyes that threaten to steal your soul, and a figure that boils a man’s blood.” A prickling crept up Jake’s neck, and he glanced toward the woods. “Steer clear of her. She’s a witch, true to her breed.”
The saddle creaked as the rider shifted. “I fear no woman.”
Jake nodded. “She’s not marriage material. She’s a Samurai, wears those fighting britches.” Jake spat into the dirt for emphasis. “She’d slice out a man’s gizzard before he’d blink twice.”
“She’s the one I seek. Where do I find this delightful creature, old man?”
Jake shook his head and pointed. “She lives up yonder in those cliffs. No one’s seen the place, but she ventures into town often. Watch the town and you’ll see her.”
“Many thanks.” The stranger tossed a coin and swung his horse about. “Forget we spoke,” he ordered and slid the scimitar into its sheath.
“I’ll keep my tongue.” He watched the rider disappear down the hill as the coin grew slick with sweat. Should he warn the girl? No! He traced a sign against evil and scrambled into the forest.
At first glance Shariel resembled women in the village. At second glance—and the sight of Shariel demanded a second glance—she looked unique, exotic. Mountain women were scrawny next to her height, and their brown eyes seemed muddy compared to Shariel’s intelligent black eyes. Her gaze threatened the soul of any fool who dared stare too long. Lustrous raven hair and elegant body triggered desire in men and envy in women.
Still, no one understood the true nature of her difference. Shariel’s telepathic ability surfaced during puberty. A young girl, shy and unsure, she heard the thoughts of villagers who cast dark looks her way. Shocked by the lewd thoughts of men, who stared at her budding young body with lust, she sought refuge among women. The hateful thoughts of women shocked her more. Wracked with shame, Shariel rushed to Aunt Bess.
They fled the village in the dead of night and lived in the solitude of a mountain cabin. Bess taught Shariel to control her mind. When she entered town, Shariel blocked waves of raw emotion that battered her mind. She used her difference, like a protective cloak to remain aloof. As a woman of mystery, she radiated confidence and cool indifference.
Today Shariel trudged down the mountain, carrying a bundle into the village. Everything seemed normal.
The mental voice shattered her barriers. Startled, she stopped and scanned the terrain. Nothing appeared wrong.
the voice growled.
Shariel squeezed her eyes shut and breathed deep, angry at her lack of control. Shifting the heavy bundle, she entered the village. Tidy huts crowded the cobblestone street, a shutter banged, and wind-whipped leaves chattered down the lane.
Menace stroked Shariel’s mind.
He’s going to catch me!
She ran. The bundle bounced and the strap felt like a noose. She darted down an alley and dashed through a familiar door.
The bell clanged overhead.
“Coot now! Where are your manners, lass? Ye come banging in here and scared me half to me grave!”
“I beg your pardon, Mistress Jordan. I thought…there was a stranger chasing me.”
Mistress Jordan peered down the empty alley. “There’s no one. Don’t let daydreams run wild! Open your pack and let me see the weaving.”
With nimble fingers Shariel unlaced straps and handed fabric to the woman. Stroking the soft material with gnarled fingers, Mistress Jordan examined the tight weave.
“Bess does right good work.”
“Aunt Bess values your praise.” Shariel curtsied and kept her gaze steady.
The old woman scoffed. “Bess prizes good coin more than flattery.” She counted eight silver pieces into Shariel’s hand. “I need the blue silk right soon.”
“It’s on the loom now. It’s the color of a summer sky and soft as a baby’s bottom.” Shariel’s eyes sparkled with pride.
“Just as I ordered,” Mistress Jordan said. “It’s for the queen. Not every mountain seamstress sends work to the castle.”
“We’re proud to serve Queen Krystal.”
“Of course! Be off so I can do my own work and take them extra loaves. Don’t know why I baked so many today.” She gestured at a baking rack. “Tell Bess I wish her good day.”
Without argument Shariel placed warm bread into her pack, knowing Bess counted bread as part of her payment. Peering into the lane, she stepped outside. She sensed no danger now.
The rider chewed dried meat while he inspected the village with a soldier’s eye. The town flew no colors and housed no garrison. He grinned. Farmers and shepherds, dressed in homespun jersey, couldn’t fight.
The girl walked out of the village, casting wary glances, like a wild animal ready to flee. The rider thought,
I’m not foolish enough to snatch you in sight of the village, little one. Farmers carry pitchforks and herdsmen wield bolos. They won’t ride to your rescue outside of town!
The girl cocked her head as if she listened. Hairs rose along the rider’s neck and he squinted into the sun. Would she retreat into the safety of town? No. She climbed the steep path into the woods, alone and vulnerable. He rubbed his neck and decided to watch for a while.
Anxious, Shariel scrambled up the hill at a brisk pace. Soon her muscles burned and her lungs ached. Afraid to stop, she scolded herself for being lazy during winter.
Pebbles skittered down from a high boulder and startled her into a crouch. She slipped a dagger from her boot and gripped the blade. Two pointed ears and a head popped over the boulder.
She released pent up breath. “Chacka! I should’ve known it was you.” The silver wolf stared down from a rocky perch as his glistening white teeth formed a canine grin.
Shariel climbed to his level. “Don’t sneak up on me like that. My nerves are all jittery since I imagined someone watched me near the village.”
Chacka sniffed the breeze and rotated his ears. Hackles bristling, he stared down the mountain trail.
“My imagination’s working overtime,” she chattered unaware of the wolf’s defensive posture. “I’d lay odds we’re in for a storm. I get spooky just before a big blow, but a spring storm shouldn’t last long.” Shariel wiped her forehead and eyed the woods. “Why does your mate hide? Haven’t you told her I’m a friend?”
Chacka kept his head low and menacing, a deep growl rumbled in his chest.
“She’ll learn to trust me.” Shariel climbed the trail, talking. The wolf stayed nearby until she reached the cabin, and then he melted into the forest shadows.
Shariel shouted, “Bye, Chacka. See you later.”
“Talking to your wolf again?” Aunt Bess stood in the door. “Don’t you know wolves would just as soon eat you as say howdy?”
Shariel grinned. “If Chacka ate a human, he’d pick one who doesn’t like him.”
Bess laughed. “I’m too tough to be appetizing. Did you get everything?”
Shariel swung her pack onto the table. “Mistress Jordan praised your weaving. She’s anxious for the blue silk.” Shariel glanced at the taut blue threads that stretched across the loom to emerge as a cascade of shimmering silk on the other side.
“It’s near finished.” Bess ran short fingers lovingly over the fabric. “It’s the best work I’ve done since leaving the castle. I hated those desert riders, but their women weave the finest silk I ever touched.”
Shariel’s eyes lit up. Aunt Bess seldom talked about the castle. “Did my mother weave?”
“No. Your mother had no patience, although I envied her long slender fingers. Ronda’s talent was the sword and taught those riders a lesson at the point of her blade.” Bess stiffened and her mouth tightened into a thin line. “You’ve got supper to fix while I finish my work.”
Prodding Bess for more information would be fruitless, so Shariel started cooking. Performing mundane tasks allowed Shariel to examine the scraps of information she remembered. Shariel was five when Doctor Alexander helped them escape from the castle:
They trudged through terrifying tunnels filled with creepy webs and skittering critters. Outside they hid in thick underbrush until hooves thundered past in the cold night air. Almost free, a burly rider swooped down from a hilltop and grabbed the hood from her mother’s cloak. Ronda slithered out of the cloak and confronted the warrior. He laughed at the slender woman.
“Are you afraid to fight me on the ground?” she taunted. “I’ll die before you take me back to the castle.”
He dismounted and faced Ronda. She ducked under the man’s blade thrusts and pranced around him. He was strong but she was agile. When his anger got the better of reason, he rushed the tormentor as she thrust a short sword into his chest.
Ronda wiped her blade on the dead rider’s cape and shoved Shariel onto the horse. She told Bess to keep her daughter safe until she sent for them. They’d been hiding in these mountains for twelve years now.
A year ago Shariel heard that Queen Krystal summoned ordinary people to help attack Havenshire, the castle where Jarrack held King Donovan prisoner. Shariel wanted to help mount the attack. Bess chewed on the problem for days but decided to stay put.
Krystal’s battle succeeded but rumors floated about Jarrack. Witnesses claimed he sent his mind into one of his sons and escaped. Bess said, “Jarrack’s evil can’t die. We must hide or he’ll come after you. You’re his daughter. His children are part of his scheme to live forever.”
How was that possible? Bess refused to explain but promised to tell her one day.