SAMPLE CHAPTER OF RANDALL FLOOD: BRING ON THE MAGIC
Posted on October 13, 2017
I'm very happy with how my new project, Randall Flood, is coming together. I'm working on chapters 8 and 9. Here's a sample chapter. It's long, almost 3,000 words I'm finding that the chapters are tending to be longer in general with this project.
Here Deride Dragons
Before dinner, Chuck registered a magical intrusion. I took Cujo out for a quick pee and then crated him. The retriever started whining before I even had the crate door secure. He pawed at the bed mat, humorously looking like he was going to dig himself out.
Chuck stood open to the teleportation spell page already. "You forgetting that beast needs water?"
I grinned and retrieved the small stainless steel bowl and hastily placed it in the crate. Cujo attempted escape, but I positioned my knee to prevent his jailbreak.
I cast the teleport spell, and we were off.
We found ourselves in a tobacco field. The distinctive rows of broad-leaved plants spread out in every direction. A sprinkler system looking like a slender-bodied insect was erected in the field next to us, sending water out in far-reaching bursts.
The spellbook wagged about in the air, darting to and fro as it scanned for the incursion. "Registering a lot of magic this time. The magnitude is huge."
Inspired by the vegetation around me I said, "Maybe a giant beanstalk?"
The spellbook didn't respond to my lame joke.
No one worked the fields around us. About time we had a mission without witnesses. "I don't see anything."
A plume of fire jetted high into the air from behind a row of scraggly pines that divided our field from the one to our left.
Chuck took off toward the fiery display.
"Please say it isn't demons," I said, thinking back to the airport and my first magical encounter.
I crashed through rows of tobacco plants, doing my best not to uproot or damage any.
The spellbook pulled ahead and was almost to the tree line.
Two more gouts of fire shot into the air. Through the trees, I couldn't tell what was producing the flames.
Whatever it was had to be shorter than the four-foot height of the tobacco plants. Maybe I'd luck out and it would be fire pixies or something.
We raced through the trees and emerged into the next field. Another fire plume streaked high into the air, easily over a hundred feet long. I still couldn't see what produced it.
"Could it be dragons?"
Chuck flew toward the source of the fire. "Not likely. Too small. Possibly a mock dragon, though."
I'd read Chuck's bestiary section twice now and didn't recall mention of that magical species.
Another plume shot into the air several hundred feet to the left of where we headed.
"More than one, you think?"
"That or we're dealing with a speedster of some sort."
Two more plumes erupted simultaneously into the air from opposite ends of the field, one fairly close to the nearby road. No one drove by to witness the fiery outburst that I could tell.
"Okay, looks like we have multiples." Chuck still glided toward the first spot.
Almost to prove his point, three more jets of fire spurted skyward, each well apart from the other.
I smelled it before I saw the magical entity. Brimstone. Great, more infernal magic. I didn't like how much of the dark stuff we'd already socked away. I mean, that much nasty magic couldn't be good for Chuck. He'd assured me that what we put inside him didn't influence him in the least, but wouldn't someone swayed by dark forces say just that?
We burst into an open lane. A lizard no longer than my forearm spun around to face us.
Black and red scales projected a sinister look. A ridge of spikes sat atop its head and a orange sail two feet at its highest point radiated along its spine. Pretty much a Dimetrodon. No wings, at least. That would make snagging it easier.
"It's a mock dragon," Chuck said, floating a few yards off to the side of the creature.
It glared at both of us as its long black tongue flicked in and out of its mouth. The way its mouth curved up at the ends gave it a comical smile. The Joker of Batman fame, a scaly and squirmy version of the clown prince of crime.
I leaned in. "Aren't you just the cutest little thing. Bet you belch out quaint puffs of smoke once and a while, too."
The mock dragon suddenly enlarged, growing twice its size in just a few seconds. The pattern of its black-and-red scales shifted around its eyes, projecting a more menacing appearance.
"What the heck?"
Chuck said, "You idiot! Don't talk down to it."
The reptile thrashed its tail toward me, its overall attitude much more aggressive. It opened its mouth, exposing rows of long, narrow teeth. It hissed and snapped its jaws closed abruptly.
"What's going on?"
"It's a mock dragon. You throw insults its way, make disparaging remarks in its direction, and it takes that hostility and transforms it into magic to make it bigger and more powerful."
The creature's fin glowed and suddenly discharged a jet of flame straight up. It went twice as high as the previous plumes we'd witnessed.
I took a step back, alarmed at how much the discharge had heated the air around the beast.
"That's crazy. No way it can do that." I covered my mouth with my hands, realizing too late that I might have just provoked a growth spurt again.
The creature stared at me. It swelled in size yet again. It was now taller than me by a foot and had to be pushing fifteen feet or more from snout to tail. Making it worse, menacing tusks sprouted from the sides of its face, terminating in extremely sharp points at the end of their twelve-inch lengths.
"Man, it's overly sensitive." I gave Chuck a shocked look. Why was I continuing to talk? It was almost a compulsion.
My insulting slip triggered the mock dragon to expand. When the growth spurt was done, his head was twenty feet in the air with his fin twice as high. Its girth spanned two rows of tobacco, crushing most of the plants underneath its now impressive weight. Several thousand pounds easily. I so want to point out how the thing really needed to watch its weight. Why am I so fixated on pointing out the negatives? That's not like me at all.
The spellbook flew at me and slapped me several times in the face hard enough to stun but not enough to qualify as a brutal beat down. "You're caught up in its magical influence. The magic it radiates makes you susceptible to voicing mean-spirited comments. You have to buckle up and resist."
I wanted to respond with how there was no way it could make me do anything of the sort but didn't. The desire to spit out that notion stewed inside me. I so wanted to say it, but knew that was the magic's influence. I covered my mouth and gave Chuck my most imploring look.
Chuck flew circles around the mock dragon's snout. It tried to chomp down on the book, but he was too fast.
In frustration at not being able to munch on its pesky prey, it fired off another blast from its fin. This arc of flame shot forward and at a diagonal. The plume stretched across three of the tobacco fields before dissipating well before it had a chance to drift to the ground.
I turned tail and ran. Keeping my mouth clamped shut―in my head a ripe insult about how the dragon couldn't keep his fire going for any decent amount of time fought to be set free―I looked back constantly to see if the behemoth of my creating was coming after me.
Not so far, it hadn't. Thing probably isn't smart enough to know what to do with clever prey. I shook my head. I really needed to stop thinking such nasty digs. I didn't like the mean side the creature's magic was bringing out in me.
I spent so much attention looking back that I crashed into another mock dragon. Although, that wasn't wholly accurate―I really tripped over the next one since it was still at its smaller size. I tumbled across the ground, rolling into a ball to protect my face and other delicate parts. I hopped to my feet and tried to ignore the fresh brush burns marking up my forearms and shins.
I glared at the little mock dragon. Its gigantic cousin stood well away from us, still occupied with trying to make a meal out of Chuck. The spellbook was moving at blazing speed, offering a perfect distraction.
But if the spellbook was busy doing that, I couldn't use it to cast a spell. I punched the air in frustration. And getting close to the big mock dragon wasn't feasible. It had to be radiating so much magic that I'd hurl insults right and left the minute I took even a few steps toward it.
The small mock dragon waddled up to me on all fours. Another crawled toward me from my right. Each looked positively harmless and pathetic. Neither could hurt a fly, a sentiment I wanted so desperately to shout. I gritted my teeth. Be strong, Randall. It's their silly magical influence trying to goad you into spouting off about their inadequate appearances.
I moved down the row, keeping the pair a few yards away. That seemed to lessen my impulse to offend.
I only had a handful of spells memorized. Neither summoning gills to breathe underwater nor conjuring a protective globe seemed like smart moves. And growing a beard and altering my hair color to change my appearance in under three seconds also didn't make sense. That left me with reversing gravity and inducing temporary blindness. Man, I really need to get a few powerful spells committed to memory.
Chuck now led the giant mock dragon on a chase. I hated how much destruction it was causing. While I didn't like the purpose of the crops, I also didn't like hurting the livelihood of the person who farmed this property.
Thankfully, the big one hadn't gotten any larger. I guess Chuck could restrain himself when it came to throwing insults about. Except when it comes to directing them at me.
My pursuers moved steadily toward me. I kept walking. They weren't as aggressive as their big brother.
A third mock dragon joined the pair.
"Doesn't matter how many of you guys there is, you won't catch me. So sluggish."
The two in the lead doubled in size, while the new arrival just added about a foot to its length. All three moved faster.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. I let their magic get to me. Although, I'm not half as dumb as these goons look. I broke into a run. Putting some distance between us, the desire to point out their lack of intelligence decreased dramatically.
I needed to get well away from them and somehow get back together with Chuck, but only if he'd managed to shake his giant pursuer.
Scanning the fields, I found no sign of the big mock dragon nor the spellbook.
That can't be good.
Rattled by now being alone, I slowed down. The trio of mock dragons poured on the speed and closed in on me. Before I could bolt, they had me surrounded.
The desire to cast out harsh judgment and petty insults overwhelmed me. "You nimrods are sad little emotional sponges. What kind of freak thrives on insults?"
All three tripled in size, their snouts, now with tusks, intruded into my personal space. The one facing me shot a tremendous plume of flame skyward from his immense fin.
I froze, biting down on my tongue to the point of drawing blood to prevent myself from unleashing further abuse.
Some world mage I am. Can't even wrangle a bunch of lame lizards.
A tongue snaked out and smacked my cheek.
I stared at the perpetrator, the mock dragon to my right.
It gnashed its teeth and then produced a long, drawn-out hiss. The one to my left knocked its snout against my shoulder.
They want me to blurt out something.
I kept my mouth shut. I tensed. It was so hard to hold back. If I let just the lightest insult out, these freaks would double in size. And with how close they were, that would likely crush me.
There was a loud thunderclap.
All three reptiles turned toward the sound's source, a spot some distance behind me. I swiveled around slowly.
A figure stood along the tree line several hundred feet away. From the stout build, it had to be a man. His robes were grey with a hood pulled down to keep his face in shadows. Not that I could determine his identity from this distance. Was that a grey beard?
A black cloud of magic floated above the man. Red and blue strands of slender magic shot out and traveled all across the fields, pouncing on what I assumed had to be other mock dragons.
Sure enough, the strands dragged back mock dragons right and left, depositing them into the black cloud. Quite a few fired off gouts of flame as they struggled to break free.
Three ribbons nabbed the mock dragons surrounding me and pulled them away as well.
I counted fifteen of the mock dragons by the time the ribbons finally stopped.
The mysterious man gestured and a very thick ribbon of red magic shot up into the clouds. Seconds later, the giant dragon that had been dead set on eating Chuck feel to Earth. Guess they could fly. Had to be some simple levitation ability since they didn't have wings.
The mock dragon thrashed about, sending plants and soil flying.
I squinted, desperate to detect anything more about this man other than he had a beard. I saw that his mouth was covered by a wrap of some sort, that only a bit of his beard was exposed because of the covering. That's keeping him from spitting out insults and making things worse.
The man waved about madly, and the cloud grew in size. It drifted toward the mock dragon. The red ribbon had wrapped around the creature several times and now dragged it into the cloud. Its head disappeared first with its thrashing tail now loaded down with spikes the last to be sucked up.
The man swept his arms up, and the cloud disappeared. He traced a sigil in the air and teleported away a few seconds later, but not before staring directly at me and shaking his head.
Alone in the field, I walked forward, skirting around a few tobacco plants the giant mock dragon had set afire with his flame. Eventually, I arrived at the tree line. I approached the mystery man's spot and looked around for clues. Not that I expected to see a discarded name tag revealing the stranger's identity or anything.
Other than a section of tamped down weeds, I found nothing. Even without clues I at least knew one thing―another magic user was on the loose, a wizard or warlock perhaps.
Suddenly, it registered with me that Chuck was still missing. Had he been swallowed up by the giant mock dragon? If so, he had been carted away by the wizard, too.
The spellbook fell out of the sky to my left. Before it hit the ground, it swerved and zoomed toward me. Chuck slowed, and I could see part of his spine was charred.
"Another battle scar?" I pointed at the injury.
Chuck hovered right in front of me. "It'll heal. Don't you worry your pretty little head about it. We've got bigger problems."
"You mean the wizard?"
"Yes. Did you get a look at him?" He rushed his words out.
It wasn't often I detected panic from the spellbook. "Not really. Had a hood and a grey beard. Not much else. He had his mouth covered to keep him from provoking the mock dragons."
"That makes sense." The spellbook turned and drifted away from me.
"What just happened? I thought I was the only magic user here."
"You aren't. I let you believe that because I honestly didn't think there were all that many left. I can detect raw magic and magic species returning, but someone adept at the arcane arts, that's a bit spotty. If they know to cloak themselves from me, which it looks like this guy did, then I won't register their presence until they're on top of us."
"He dragged off all the mock dragons, all sixteen if you count the big bruiser that tried to gobble you up."
The spellbook kept moving out through the tobacco field, lost in thought. I moved to catch up. Soon, we were walking abreast of each other.
"I don't recall the mock dragons listed in your bestiary."
Chuck said, "They aren't. It only catalogs natural magical species. Mock dragons are crafted by powerful magic users."
"So what's that mean?"
"That man you saw, he conjured them up. He wanted to get our attention."
"So this was a trap?"
"No, I think he just wanted to spook us, show us what he's capable of."
I eyed the damaged crops all around us. This little dust-up had messed up several rows to our right. Could I use a spell to regrow the many trampled and burned down plants?
I was about to ask Chuck just that when my next step encountered nothing. I fell forward and into an open trapdoor.
Chuck, knowing what was happening, dove in after me seconds before the wooden trapdoor slammed shut.
We both fell through blackness, my screaming tempered by the fact that this exact situation had happened to me four times before.
I really hate this.