The Last Dragon Keeper

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When I was first venturing into writing, I started submitting to different competitions. ‘The Last Dragon Keeper’ was submitted to the Fantasy Faction Writing Competition way back in 2012. I was amazed that people voted for it and I ended up winning that month! I keep planning to return to this world, with Eui and her brother Rowan and their voices have become a little more demanding of late, so you never know. Here it is ‘The Last Dragon Keeper’…..

The Last Dragon Keeper

Eui watched as the waves surged towards the shore. Ice had formed on the water, the motion turning it to mush as it covered the smooth grey rocks that acted as boundary between land and sea. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying but failing to keep out the wind which threatened to tear her clothes and pick at her bones. She knew that her mother would scold her for forgetting her jacket but in her desperation to get out of the house, she had left it, stowed snugly in her wardrobe. Eui stamped her feet to try and warm them but the wind kept forcing it’s way through her thick boots, biting her toes.

The ground began to shake. It started with a slow trickle of the smaller rocks which quickly blended with the mush of the ocean water. The larger rocks began to vibrate then roll down the hill and into the water. Eui stood her ground as rocks large and small snapped at her heels, flinching as the larger ones bruised her. Eui breathed deeply, inhaling the familiar ash scent which covered the island more deeply than the perma-snow.

The earth juddered to a stop and Eui carefully stepped out of the pile of stones which covered her feet. The icy slush boiled along the shore then all was still once more. Eui turned as she heard footsteps crunching on the gravel and smiled at her father.

‘Your mother is worried about you,’ he said, not looking her in the eye but focussing on the ocean.

‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did.’ Eui risked a look at her father but could not read his expression. The silence settled over them, only slightly comfortable.

Finally, taking a deep breath, Eui said, ‘The dragons are dying father.’

‘As are we, Eui, as are we. We can only hope that they die before we do. A dragon alone in this world, without a Keeper, would soon fall prey to the blades of the Sagar.’

If they’re lucky, thought Eui, but she did not pursue the matter. Every Keeper knew the challenges faced by the dragons. The Sagars were hunters who sold dragon meat and their scales and teeth which held magical properties. For over a generation they had hunted and killed dragons, depleting their numbers in an unending quest for the perfect hunt: A mythical beast, defined by its purity and beauty. With each retelling of the myth, the dragon grew in grace and size until Eui, who had been told stories of the Sagar which had kept her awake at night, did not recognise the creature as being a dragon but an animal of pure virtue. Knowing no dragon had ever been born matching the myth kept the Sagars hunting and Eui from peaceful dreams.

However, the biggest threat was the dragons themselves. Females would lay between 15-20 eggs and would continually defend her nest from attacks by males. Of the eggs which survived, not all would hatch, with some being trampled. Finally the female, tired and undernourished, would die. If she was lucky, she might see the one or two of her offspring who would emerge from their eggs, snorting flames and growling to be fed.

In the absence of a mother, when the infant dragons smashed from their eggs, they would bond with a Keeper. The Keepers were almost as old as the dragons themselves but they to had slowly grown fewer and fewer until Eui and her brother Rowan were the only none bonded keepers. The last surviving female was guarding her egg, waiting to die.

‘It’s a very special time for your brother. He will be bonded, probably today,’ said her father, his eyes remaining on the waves.

‘And what about me?’ asked Eui. ‘A keeper with nothing to keep.’

‘Is that why you wish to leave?’ Eui flashed a quick look at her father. He would claim that it was the wind which brought tears to his eyes, but the clench in Eui’s stomach reminded her of the argument with her mother.

‘There is a world beyond the isle, father. I wish to explore and there is nothing here for me. There will be no more dragons once this has hatched and bonded with Rowan. A keeper with nothing to keep,’ Eui’s eyes flooded with tears which threatened to fall. Her father swung an arm around her and gently pulled her close for a brisk hug.

‘Come, Eui. They are preparing for the ceremony. I have to get to the Great Hall. Greeson and the elders are waiting for me.’ Together they walked slowly up the beach, slipping occasionally on the loose gravel. Kissing her on the head before gently pushing her towards the settlement, Eui’s father walked towards the mountain. Suddenly he called Eui and she ran to him as the wind stole his words.

‘Eui, Keepers are like the seasons. We are currently in the darkest winter we have known, filled with darkness and despair but after the winter, the spring warmth always comes. Remember, your name means spring in the old tongue. Wait, and you will see the beauty when we emerge from the darkness. I know you feel there is nothing for you here, but your brother will need your support and love. Being a Keeper is not easy and he still has a lot to learn.’

Eui gave her father a small smile, then turned and jogged into the settlement, flinging open the door. Her mother looked up from where she was sat by the table, her sewing needle raised. She regarded Eui with a stony expression.

Eui paused, looking contrite under the glare of her mother. ‘Father said you might need some help preparing for the ceremony,’ she said finally.

Her mother carefully laid down her needle. She studied the garments laid out across the table then quietly said, ‘Go and wake your brother. He needs to get dressed. The ceremony starts soon. The egg is hatching.’

Eui dipped her head and avoided eye contact with her mother as she wound around the large table and up the stairs. Launching into her brother’s room, she jumped onto his bed, bouncing up and down.

‘Wakey, wakey,’ she called as Rowan swatted at her.

‘Get off,’ he shouted as Eui continued jumping.

‘Mother says you have to get up. The ceremony is going to start soon so you need to get into your dress,’ teased Eui.

‘It’s a robe,’ roared Rowan, sitting up and pushing Eui off of the bed. She landed with cat-like grace, giving him a smug smile.

‘Whatever. The eggs hatching. You’re about to become a Keeper.’

‘Yeah,’ said Rowan without enthusiasm, pulling a t-shirt from the floor and sniffing it. Deciding it didn’t smell, he dragged it over his head, then ran his fingers through his hair.

Eui watched her brother. Three years older than her thirteen, his training made him appear older but seeing him first thing in the morning always reminded Eui of how young her brother really was.

Playfully kicking him, she ran from the room, calling ‘Your dress is on the table. Hurry up or I might spill my breakfast on it.’

Eui charged into the kitchen, Rowan a few paces behind. They both stopped when they saw their mother’s stern face.

‘Hurry up,’ their mother said, handing Rowan his robe. Smoothing her hair, she stood a little straighter and scowled at her children. ‘I will see you at the Great Hall,’ she said, leaving them.

Eui grinned at her brother. Rowan ignored her and carefully picked up the robes his mother had spent weeks embroidering. Slipping the delicate fabric over his head, he felt it cascade down his body. Checking the sleeves were straight, he tugged at the hem. Eui bit her cheeks to stop from laughing while Rowan slipped into his boots.

‘It’s a robe,’ he growled. Eui couldn’t contain herself and started laughing. Looking down at himself, Rowan sighed, then he started giggling. ‘Ok, it’s a dress. Can we go? I have a dragon to meet.’

Together they walked from the settlement towards the Great Hall, Rowan complaining about the cold and the snow getting into his boots. Entering the cave that would take them to the Great Hall they could hear the Elders singing, and the pained final breaths of the female dragon. The Great Hall was a large cave which had formed in the mountain, decorated by generations of Keepers. There were designs showing the bonding ceremony, the history of the keepers and dragons, with some designs used to train young keepers.

Eui and Rowan joined their parents, stood on a large platform just above the pit where the dragon rested with her last remaining egg. The female dragon was large, her scales a burnt orange turning to red on her belly and yellow on her wings. Her breath was shallow and laboured and the keepers knew that it would not be long before she would join her brethren in the flame halls of the underworld.

Eui stole a peek at the egg. It was about the size of a boulder, with mottled brown spots and she heard the frustrated squeaks as it’s occupier nosed its way out. The Elders stood on the opposite platform, their chants rising and falling with the breaths of the female. The large dragon’s head drooped, rose, then fell again.

Greeson silenced the Elders with a raised hand. ‘She has passed to the underworld,’ he said.

No one made a sound as they watched the dragon ease its nose, then it’s body and finally its long tail from the egg. It opened its mouth and coughed, sending a ball of flame harmlessly against the wall. Shaking itself its wings unfurled and the Keepers stood amazed. The baby dragon’s body was a paler colour than it’s mothers but its wings were pure white, veins highlighted in golden scales which caught the light. Shaking its head, it emitted a small bark before experimentally flapping its wings. Its dark green eyes took in the unmoving body of its mother before it spotted Rowan stood on the platform. Another flap of its wings and it was eye level with the platform, barking happily.

The Elders began chanting in the ancient tongue. Eui did not understand all the words but knew it was the song to encourage the dragon to choose its Keeper. Rowan grinned as the dragon looked at him and bowed deeply as he had been taught. The dragon started to dip its head when it caught sight of Eui behind Rowan. Cocking its head to one side it forgot to move its wings, flapping quickly as it began to fall. Rowan remained bowed, but his mother shifted nervously. Rowan dared to peek and frowned when he saw that the dragon was not returning his bow. Finally he stood and looked at his father, who shrugged his confusion.

Standing, Rowan blocked the dragons view of Eui. The dragon craned his neck to look around the boy. Eui looked back wide-eyed back at the creature floating effortlessly before stepping past Rowan and raising her hand towards the dragon.

The dragon swooped close, it’s sudden movement causing Eui to step back in surprise until the dragons long black tongue flicked out, licking her hand. Eui giggled, running her hand along the dragon’s muzzle as it growled contentedly.

‘The dragon has chosen it’s Keeper,’ called Greeson, his voice echoing.

Eui stopped playing with the dragon as the words struck her like a physical blow. She looked at Rowan, his face contorted with anger, her mother with her hand covering her mouth in shock and finally her father who was smiling at her. Stepping forward he lifted Eui onto the dragon’s back. Eui hugged the dragon’s neck as it rose and circled the Great Hall.

‘Spring has come with the last Dragon Keeper,’ Eui’s father said.

 

If you’ve enjoyed this story, why not check out my other works, including my novels ‘Akane: The Last of the Orions‘, ‘Weird Wild‘ and my children’s book ‘Ghoulsome Graveyard‘.

Throwback Thursday: I was interrogated!

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Way back in 2012 I was working with an amazing bunch of girls on a project called ‘The Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse’. It was a funny, insane website which you can access here. My first article ‘Running in Heels From Zombies‘ was a very tongue-in-cheek look at apocalypse footwear and I wrote assorted other silliness, some of which has been incorporated into other things.

Cat Connor is one of the Apocalypse Girls and she interviewed me for her website on 9 April 2012. To read the original interview click here.

Throwback Thursday: Round the World in 80 Flavours

Way back in 2012 I was invited to contribute to ‘Vie Hebdomadaires‘ and I wrote a piece about the wide variety of foods we’d sampled during or travels. From the paradilla’s of Argentina to the snail (?) I ate in Japan there were certainly some interesting foods to try! (See pics below). It’s funny that since returning to the UK I’ve become a vegetarian and in some ways can’t believe the crazy food I’ve tried!

Click the link above to read the original post, or continue reading below.

Originally published on 25 May 2012 on Vie Hebdomadaires.

When hubby and I decided to leave the UK in 2006 to sample life in Latin America we knew we were in for an interesting gastronomic event. However, as our one year gap year stretched into nearly 5 years of living and traveling in different countries our eyes were opened (and often closed as we politely ate a local dish lovingly prepared by new friends) to new tastes, textures and ingredients so here’s a whistle-stop tour of some of my favourite treats and eats.

Latin America:
Argentina: The paradilla’s or BBQ’s in Argentina are legendary and with good reason. Excellent cuts of succulent meat coupled with sumptuous local wine made for a winning dinner every time.

Exotic fruits. My favourite was the custard apples we ate in Brazil.

Ecuador: patacones are fried plantain served with cheese and mayonnaise. Simple yet delicious. My mouth is literally watering as I remember these!

Breakfast in Brazil. Truly this is something which needs to be seen to be believed but nearly everywhere we stayed in Brazil breakfast was treated with great ceremony and would often take well over an hour to eat. There would be cake, fruit, cereals, eggs and more. It would set you up for the day!
Australia:
I hate to say it but we ate Skippy. Kangaroo meat is being pushed as the latest ‘healthy’ meat by the Australian government. I suppose there are a number of health and environmental benefits: kangaroos need less water than cows and don’t damage the land like cow’s hooves. They also produce less methane while having less cholesterol than beef. It had an earthy taste which took a little getting used too but was tasty.

South East Asia:
Every country we visited offered something new to our palates and in many ways I’m doing it a disservice trying to put it into words but here goes.

Thailand: phad thai is the famous dish and we’d frequently enjoy it made from the vendors who pushed their carts along the streets. We also tempted (and burned) our taste buds with the spicy curries Thailand is famous for.

Malaysia: A fusion of cultures greets the traveller in Malaysia, with influences from China, India and the West and we enjoyed them all. However, my favourite place was tea at the Boh tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands. Delicious!

Laos: So impressed were we with the local cuisine in Laos that we actually took a cookery course there where we learned to stuff lemon grass, make stew and a local dish from raw buffalo meat. It was also our first taste of insects as we ate fried grubs (they tasted like scrambled eggs!).

Japan:
People always assume that sushi is the only thing people eat in Japan, but with a husband who’s allergic to seafood, we got to sample some of the other delicious food here. Japanese curry became a firm favourite for us and I never thought I would eat curry topped with cheese but trust me, it’s amazing. There was also chicken, pork and beef BBQ’s with special sauces. However, it’s true, the strangest thing I ate (hubby bowed out) was a shellfish that looked like a slug, bought for me by a local we met at the Fukouka night market. Too polite to decline, I’m still traumatised at the sight of it!

Spain:
We were so lucky to live in La Rioja, the wine region of Spain. The city in which we lived, Logrono, is famous for having ‘the street of 100 restaurants’. These often tiny stores would sell one type of tapas only, the wine being chosen to compliment the food to perfection. When the tapas ran out, the restaurant would close for the evening so we would have to get to our favourite places early to make sure we could enjoy our treats. There’s too many delicious tapas to choose only one and everyone has their favourite (my students would spend entire lessons arguing over where sold the best tortilla) so here’s a selection.

Wales:
Welsh cakes were an instant hit for us when we moved to Cardiff but I also discovered laver bread, made from seaweed. It’s an unusual taste, but mixed in with scrambled eggs I felt very virtuous with those extra healthy vitamins and minerals.

Throwback Thursday: What Writing Means to Me

Way back in 2012 I’d freshly arrived in Devon and had helped to set up a writers group. One of our fellow writers had set up an interesting project ‘Vie Hebdomadaires’ where each week guest bloggers would take over and write about anything which interested them. It’s a fun project and there’s been a wide variety of topics covered. If you’ve got spare time, I’d definitely recommend a flick through.

Anyway, I wrote this piece about ‘What Writing Means To Me‘. It was a precis of where I was at that time with my writing and partly why I feel the need to write. Looking back, I’m amazed at how much I’d accomplished and also, how much more I’ve completed. In many respects it’s easy to overlook our accomplishments, but in the five years since I wrote the article, I’ve published ‘Akane: The Last of the Orions‘, I’ve also published two other books in different genres, the adult collection of short stories ‘Weird Wild‘ and the pre-teen novel ‘Ghoulsome Graveyard‘. There’s been assorted short stories published, The Girls Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse has been revived and whilst I lost all my original work on my previous website, here I am blogging again. This amongst assorted crafting projects, short stories, working and being a full time mum and that’s not too shabby!

 

Click the link above to see the original article or carry on reading below.

There is an inordinate amount written about writing: the who, where and why. Quotes on how you should write, what you should write about. To be honest, as someone who has written for years but who is only now trying to become a ‘professional’ writer, it’s all very intimidating, which is why I loved a mini-Twitter campaign led by Jason Arnopp (scriptwriters for shows such as Doctor Who as well as a number of movies) which said that if you write, you’re a writer. Not ‘aspiring’, not ‘desperate’, not ‘wannabe’. You put words onto paper in an order which makes for (hopefully) interesting reading. This led to a lot of people, in the style of a Hollywood movie, announce, ‘My name is … I am a writer.’

So, since then, I’ve taken on board Jason’s words. I no longer describe myself as ‘aspiring’ or ‘attempting to be’. I write, therefore I am a writer.

2012 is the year which I’m focusing on my writing, trying to go from ‘aspiring’ to ‘published’. I set myself a number of aims (I say aims because it sounds less daunting than New Year Resolutions) for the year which I suppose have made me a little introspective about my writing career to date.

I’ve always written. I remember as a child writing a wandering story which I proudly told my cousin ran to ten pages. During my teenage years there was the cliched angst-ridden poetry and short stories and I was lucky enough that my English teacher channeled me towards writing for the local paper who were creating a section written by youngsters. My first article, about my experiences of learning to drive, won a prize. I was later asked to review Les Miserables when it was touring and arrived in my local town.

At university I focused my energies in other directions and it wasn’t until my husband and I went traveling that the voices which had talked me into writing those ten pages as a child came back to me. I started a story based on a little hummingbird who got lost on his way to visit his armadillo friend and ended up traveling around South America in much the same way we were (although without the 36 hour bus journeys!). There’s some ok ideas in the story, but I knew I needed help so I enlisted on the London School of Journalism’s distance learning course for people who want to write children’s books. An interesting course which helped me understand my characters a bit more, under the encouragement of my tutor, I embarked on my first novel ‘Akane’. It’s a bit of a science fiction, adventure story for young adults and I loved having that adventure with those characters. I’ll be honest, they surprised me a number of times with their actions: the good becoming bad and vice versa, on character who was supposed to only have a walk on part became integral to the story and the pain my characters experienced, I experienced.

It was around that time that I discovered National Novel Writing Month. I’ve written at length about NaNoWriMo and am a proud ‘Wrimo’ myself so I won’t go into details here but the idea is that in 30 days you write a 50,000 word novel. It sounds a lot, but when broken down it’s only 1667 words per day. 2012 will be my fourth year taking part in the madness of NaNoWriMo which has helped me create a number of different novels and I look forward to every November when it starts again.

Thanks to NaNoWriMo and the work I was creating for them, I realised that I’m a genre writer: the voices in my head are all from the worlds of the paranormal, the mythical or other galaxies. So, I decided to attend my first convention for genre writers, Fantasy Con, down in Brighton last year. It was all quite exciting and nerve-wracking. There were authors there who I’d read for years, while some I had never heard of but whose work I have since picked up and enjoyed.

While there I met a lady named Adele. We chatted and got on well, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to see or hear from her until the next convention so it was a surprise when she contacted me to say she was setting up a new blog and would I like to take part. I was interested, blogging is still fairly new to me so it would be good to work with someone with a lot more experience. However, it was the theme of the blog which really drew me in: The Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse. To celebrate all things feminine when the end comes as well as offer tongue in cheek advice about how to survive when the zombie hoards come crashing through your door. I loved the idea and immediately submitted my first article ‘Running In Heels (From Zombies)’. Since it’s launch last October, the Apocalypse Girls are we are known have developed quite a following and our ‘feral leader’ as Adele has affectionately been named is constantly coming up with new plans to challenge us.

I was also lucky enough to meet another inspirational woman, Oriana with whom I have set up a writing group in Exeter, called ‘Resident Writers’. We’d both attended different writing groups but they didn’t quite fill the need we had: stimulating us and encouraging us to write. In the months between NaNoWriMo, I’d often go for weeks without writing anything and like any muscle, don’t using your writing skills and they get rusty. We launched in March this year and already have a fabulous group of writers from different genres who come and write with us. I’ve even started writing poetry which I’ve not done since I was at school!

So, now I am a ‘writer’ what next? I have a number of voices muttering in my head, demanding my attention, but even those who have had their stories told are asking more of me: that I let others read their tales and share their journey. Therefore I’m about to start a new adventure in my writing career, the search for an agent and a publisher. I know it’s going to be a hard and difficult road, but at least I have a lot of people to keep me company, even if my head is getting a little crowded.

 

Meet the Maker: Goals

So today we’re looking at goals. This is a slightly challenging topic to discuss, especially when your creative endeavours are so varied, and ever changing. When I bought my sewing machine, my aim was to make unique items for my daughter and I to wear. I’ve reached this goal (and ensured a steep learning curve!) but now I’d like to slowly start sharing what I make and hopefully start building clients and business.

For ease, I think I’ll divide it into writing goals and crafting goals.

Writing goals:

  • Keep writing! I’ve been pretty slack since I had my daughter so need to get back to writing regularly
  • Finish editing ‘Elesphere’ my young adult fantasy novel. I was pretty much finished but it needs a lot more work.
  • Ongoing work on my ‘Vampire’s Bodyguard’ series. More details on this to come!
  • Look into self publishing Elesphere and The Vampire’s Bodyguard next year. I’ve also got an idea to expand a short story but I’m keeping that a secret for now.
  • Obviously I’d love best-seller status but frankly, having people out there, reading my work is still surreal so I’ll just take a couple more happy readers. For now.

Crafting goals:

  • Ongoing skill development.
  • Improving my felting and learn to make fairies and characters.
  • Design and make a range of greetings cards to sell.

March Meet the Maker: Raw Materials

Today on Instagram’s #MarchMeetTheMaker we’re looking at raw materials. It’s a running joke in our house that I’ve got far too much craft materials, but frankly you never know when inspiration might strike!

Below is a selection of raw materials. On the left is an old sleep suit of my daughters. Ironically it’s probably where inspiration for @bluebeaglebaby came from as i loved the material so much I couldn’t bear to get rid of it when she’d outgrown it so decided to upcycle it into a bib, teether and dummy clip. The response from friends was so positive that I decided to start making more things and it’s definitely grown since then! The bucket on the right is a selection of the fabric stash I keep around

The middle picture is balls of beautiful alpaca wool. I treated myself to them with my royalties from ‘Weird Wild‘ and ‘Tales of the Nun and Dragon‘. However, I can’t decide what to knit with them! I’ve so far tried two patterns but I wasn’t happy with how either turned out so have frogged them and will reknit. The wool feels so soft to knit with, I may just keep changing my mind as an excuse to keep knitting!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram! @bluebeaglebaby I’d love to hear from you 🙂