Orphaned as an infant, Croft spent his early years in the harsh confines of the Abbey, dreaming of befriending a dragon. When the day finally came, an accident leaves him utterly changed and bonded to a beast named Rueloo. Facing prejudice and fear, Croft builds a quiet life in the nest among his dragon friends – unaware his unique abilities would soon be needed.
With a powerful foe marching towards their borders, King Augustus appeals to the dragon child for his help. Croft’s example of sacrifice, kindness, and bravery inspire the people of Spiredale to unite and overcome. With the dragons, they forge a powerful alliance and embrace an entwined future neither were expecting.
In this five-story collection, join Croft and Rueloo through a series of adventures filled with intrigue, survival, love, sorrow, and triumph. Their bond is only the beginning…
Targeted Age Group:: 10-14
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I love dragons, but in many books they are portrayed as evil or as dangerous killers. I wanted to write a story where the humans and dragons co-existed peacefully for the benefit of both. A unique bonding process changes the human forever, providing both advantages and challenges. Croft and Rueloo's adventures not only change the kingdom, but give them personal obstacles to overcome and a chance to do some good in the world.
RISE OF THE DRAMAN: Book One – Dragon Child
Spiredale, outside the palace gates
The blaring of trumpets mixed with the sound of clashing steel as enemy forces engaged the beleaguered Spiredale army. Men shrieked in agony as arrow and sword pierced soft flesh, killing and maiming on either side of the conflict. The adversary found themselves hampered by a late spring snowstorm, their men bogged down in the mud and snow-slicked fields outside the royal palace. Spiredale’s forces were better prepared; and thus, the battle slowly turned in their favor.
At the heart of the melee, King Phillip himself spearheaded the final thrust into the heart of the enemy formation. If this was their last stand, the king felt duty-bound to share the risk with his men in defense of their kingdom. Foolish perhaps, and contrary to his Council’s advice, yet the soldiers drew courage from his presence among them. Amid cries of the injured and dying, the recently fallen snow was now stained with crimson and littered with bodies.
Though surrounded by brave men, Phillip became the focus of a band of desperate fighters. A volley of arrows felled enough of his guard to expose the unfortunate monarch, and he was run through with a sword. His final words urged the men to defend Spiredale to the last, and a rousing cry rose up above the fray.
“FOR THE KING!”
Fueled by anger and desperation, the remaining warriors struck their enemy with fervor. They could not save the king but their homeland was still at risk, and nothing short of Almighty God would stop them now. Exhausted and spattered with gore, the remainder of Phillip’s army continued until the last enemy fell. As the trumpets declared victory, they carried Phillip’s body off the battlefield with heavy hearts. Their beloved king was dead.
A frightened, weary populace gathered two days after the battle for the coronation of Phillip’s only son. Freshly crowned, Augustus and his wife, Queen Nelia, waved from a turreted balcony at the crowd below; grieving, yet committed to the defense of Spiredale and the nurturing of its people. As much as anyone, Augustus was unprepared for the wrenching change which placed him on the throne.
For generations, Spiredale provided a comfortable, peaceful life for its citizens. It was only in recent years, following the discovery of gold, that it attracted any unwanted attention. Alongside his late father, Augustus spent an inordinate amount of time fending off attacks from neighboring kingdoms, intent on claiming Spiredale’s riches for themselves. The most recent conflict, which ended Phillip’s life, had almost been their undoing.
Augustus valiantly set aside the dark thoughts and grief, reminding himself to smile at the adulating throng below. Queen Nelia, sharing his burden, gave his gloved hand a reassuring squeeze. A few moments passed before the king’s hard-won smile faltered. The noisy crowd suddenly stopped their cheering to point at the sky, gaping in horror. Blocking the weak spring sun were dozens of dragons, winging their way towards the Great Peak mountains on Spiredale’s western border.
In this part of the world, dragons were known to favor mountainous terrain, living in natural caves. With the nearest nest far to the south in the drylands, near the kingdom of Thorn, there seemed no reason for them to be here. Fascinated, Augustus stared open-mouthed, even as the queen fainted dead away at the sight.
In the days to follow, reports confirmed the dragons had indeed made their home in the mountains; apparently there to stay. Fortunately, the enormous colorful beasts left the populace of Spiredale unmolested, though the same could not be said for their animals. Soon, the king heard multiple accounts of picked-over herds and missing horses, along with demands he do something about it.
Communication with the dragons was impossible and fighting them pointless. Even so, Augustus came up with a clever plan to pacify his winged neighbors. Dragons were well known for their voracious appetites and a strange fondness for gold. Fortunately for Spiredale, the kingdom contained both fertile fields and an abundance of gold ore. By royal proclamation, the king expanded the mines at Wort and established large herds of pigs, sheep, and goats.
The village of Orchid became the official transfer point for regular deliveries of processed gold and feed animals. Every seven days, near sunset, soldiers escorted the gifts to a secluded valley near the village and then waited outside the moveable gates until the dragons arrived. Swooping down on powerful wings, they enjoyed their meal and snatched up the heavy leather pouches of precious metal. In minutes, the valley was picked clean amid a cacophony of song-like whistles and calls, and the dragons returned to their nest high in the mountains.
The intelligent creatures quickly understood what the humans were doing and settled into a regular routine. During daylight hours, the dragons generally kept to their mountain territory and gave up feasting on hapless farm animals. Meanwhile, the populace avoided disturbing them – content to keep the beasts happy with food and gold. The king’s foresight paid off, resulting in riches and security. No one, it seemed, was foolish enough to attack Spiredale with the mighty fire-breathers close at hand, leaving the little kingdom in peace.
In the course of time, the people became complacent with the relationship; and were therefore, unprepared for the changes wrought by a single curious child.
Army outpost at Orchid, five years later
Umfrey paused outside the mare’s stall, easily spotting the curled up figure of a little boy, nestled in the hay. From the look of things, he’d spent the night here, and the outpost’s second in command considered his options. Probably best to start with a few questions and then see about reporting it to Captain Dane.
The mare didn’t seem to be bothered by the child’s presence, but Umfrey led her quietly to another stall for her morning oats. By the time he returned, the boy was awake and blinking owlishly at him. After a wide yawn, he smiled and stood up to ask a question.
“Are thee the captain?”
Umfrey chuckled, shaking his head. The little fellow didn’t seem to realize he was in a bit of trouble.
“No. I am Umfrey. Thee will meet the captain soon enough. Why were thee sleeping in our stables? Have thee no home?”
The boy had an intelligent face and mop of dark curls on his head. He was thin, browned from the sun, and dressed in dirty rags. Umfrey could tell he was deciding exactly how to answer the questions.
“Horses are my favorite! What is the roan’s name?”
Hmmm. The boy was clever, too.
“Whiska. Now, tell me why thee are here or it will be a whipping for thee.”
The child’s eyes widened and he backed himself into the corner.
“No! Please… I promise to be good. If I take care of the horses will thee let me stay?”
Stay? There was little chance he could remain here. Perhaps the village priest would find a place for the boy. The poor waif reminded the soldier of his own little brother, though this lad apparently lacked home and family. It was anyone’s guess what he’d been through before ending up in Orchid, and Umfrey supposed it wasn’t a happy story. Fortunately, someone else would decide what to do with him.
“That is for the captain to decide. If thee promise not to run off, I shall go fetch him. Thee must be honest and answer his questions. Understand?”
The skittish child nodded his head, remaining safely in the corner of the stall. Umfrey hurried out of the stables and went in search of his commanding officer. He liked and respected Captain Dane, as did the other men. Surely, he would know what to do and they could go about their business as usual. The captain’s quarters consisted of three small rooms at the far end of the long barracks building. Umfrey knocked and entered on command.
The front room served a number of purposes, and included a small table and chair for the captains meals. Dane scraped the last bit of pottage from the bowl as Umfrey approached, looking up at him with a quizzical smile.
“Excuse the interruption, Captain. I found a young boy in the stables this morning. He requests to see thee.”
Dane chuckled and shook his head.
“Has he now? What else can thee tell me?”
“From the look of it, I would say he’s been traveling and slept in Whiska’s stall last night. He offered to take care of the horses if I would let him stay.”
Dane’s brows beetled at the unusual situation.
“Did thee make any promises?”
“No, Captain. Only that I would fetch thee to speak with him and he must answer thy questions honestly.”
Dane stood, curious to meet the lad and find out what he was doing here. Unless, of course, this was all a ruse.
“Very good. If I should discover this to be one of thy pranks, Umfrey, thee shall be assigned to sentry duty for a fortnight.”
Chuckling, they made their way out of the building and headed directly for the stables. Before they reached it, Umfrey added one more observation.
“Something I said scared the boy. I think… he’s been whipped before and fears it. Thee may want to be gentle with him at first.”
Dane nodded, saying nothing. There was a time and place for punishment, though he preferred to use other methods whenever possible. Truthfully, soldiers rarely dealt with young children, but his own father had been a kind, patient man and Dane remembered.
Umfrey led the way inside, stopping before an empty stall. Backed into a corner, the boy looked up with cautious interest; remaining where he was. If his first guess was correct, the lad appeared to be apprenticeship age or younger – perhaps six or seven years. Dane looked him over, wondering how long he’d been on his own and where he came from. First, an introduction was in order.
“I am Captain Dane. What is thy name, child?”
The boy peered up at the pleasant man, drawn in by his soothing voice. He was of average height, well-muscled, with dark hair and sky-blue eyes. His dark red tunic and polished boots gave him an appearance of authority, and the child made an unconscious decision to trust him.
“Croft. I slept here with Whiska. She is a good horse.”
Dane suppressed a grin and asked another question.
“Do thee know how to care for horses?”
Croft’s face lit up with excitement.
“Oh, yes! I know how to care for all the animals, and horses used to be my favorite.”
Dane’s left eyebrow rose, head cocked to the side.
“I see. And thy favorite now?”
Croft tentatively stepped out of the shadows towards Dane.
“Dragons! Horses are very nice, but dragons are so much better! I came here to see them.”
Dane was not overly surprised by the boy’s admission. Most people, especially children, were curious about the mighty winged beasts living virtually next door. For their own safety, interaction with the dragons was discouraged. Even he and his men only saw them once a week, at night, and fully armed. Dane decided to change the subject.
“Umfrey tells me thee asked to stay here. Where is thy home and family?”
Croft looked down; eyes covered by a curtain of curly black hair. When he answered, it was with quiet, carefully chosen words.
“I have none.”
Another orphan then, as he suspected. It was highly unusual for one so young to be wandering about the kingdom by himself, yet here he was. Someone must have cared for him before this, and he appeared to have been trained in animal husbandry. Dane was certain there was more to his story, but the boy seemed reluctant to reveal anything else. No matter. As long as he wasn’t in trouble with the law he would allow the boy to keep his secrets.
“Our last apprentice is now a soldier, and we have need of someone to help with the animals. Thee would be expected to work for thy keep and will answer directly to me. Is this to thy liking?”
Croft’s head jerked up in surprise, eyes sparkling.
“Oh yes, Captain! I thank thee.”
The boy’s stomach chose that moment to rumble in annoyance, and Dane felt guilty for not thinking of it sooner.
“First, thee need some food to quiet thy belly, lest thee startle the horses! Thee will not be staying with Whiska from now on, but in thine own bed in my quarters. Come along, and I shall show thee.”
The boy was surprised and pleased by the offer of food and a proper bed. The captain reminded him a little of his old friend Edward, and he willingly took Dane’s hand as they made their way out of the stables towards a long low building. He did not know what tomorrow would bring, but he was grateful for the captain’s kindness and someplace to call his own.
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Alexander grew up in the Midwest, was compelled to attend private school, and ended up with an eclectic career. He’s still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life.
When not working to pay the bills, he loves to read, watch Star Trek, and laugh at Calvin and Hobbs cartoons. He also enjoys long baths, country music, nature photography, cooking and keeping up with his large family.
Until 2016, his writing included unpublished stories, music, poetry and drama scripts. Writing his first novel changed everything, and he struggles to balance a boatload of ideas with very little time. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, paranormal and romance.
The author strives to create imaginative, generally upbeat stories with happy endings, making sure the bad guys get their comeuppance. He considers reading a chance to get away from it all and invites you to join him.