The Story behind the Cover

When we were reading submissions for Fantasy for the Throne, I (Tom) found the format catching. I therefore wrote the story below and sent it along to the publisher, who showed it to te artist, who then… You saw the result on the opening screen!

 

A Dragon in Waiting

Dragons are hard to find.

They can adjust their coloring and even their shape to blend in with the landscape while they sleep off full bellies and dream of burning barns, fleeing cattle, and screaming villagers.

And then, when their bellies were empty again…

Shahzi was different. He thought burning villages was far too much work. Chasing villagers was fun, but sometimes they stuck you with sharp, pointy things. Or a knight showed up, eager to make his (or sometimes her) reputation.

That was when a sensible dragon blended into the landscape. Even if the belly was empty and growling.

Until the night when lazy Shahzi was strolling through the town, hoping for a stray dog or even a drunk snoring in the middle of the street. As he was passing behind a row of houses, he noticed that just a few steps from each back stoop beneath which the dogs were whimpering, was a small structure. He sniffed at its door and snorted in disgust. It stank. But it also smelled of villagers.

A door creaked open a few houses away, Shahzi held still despite his hunger. He darkened his hide. He watched as a villager, carrying a candle, crossed to one of the structures and went inside. A few minutes later, he returned to his house.

Shahzi watched for two more nights before the pattern was clear. Then he gorged himself on a flock of slow sheep and returned to Dragon Mountain to practice what he already thought of as his new facial expression.

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Eventually, of course, a knight came looking for dragons to slay. Shahzi watched as he rode along the mountain trails, searching for signs of his prey, sometimes passing within yards of a camouflaged paw or tail.

As evening approached, the knight sought a place to make camp. He soon came upon a meadow fragrant with wildflowers and ringed by tall trees. There was also, as luck would have it, a privy beneath the shade of the trees.

It was so much like those in the village that the knight wondered at its presence. But of course there were woodcutters, who might well have chosen to provide themselves with a civilized amenity instead of relying on the nearby shrubbery. And he was in need.

The knight tied his horse to a branch, leaned his spear against another, and began to unbuckle his mail trews.

He could hardly wait to open the door.

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