Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Black Collar is...

The Black Collar is the new serialized fantasy novel by D. Wilder. It concerns a dragon bound by the titular artifact, and enslaved to the protection of the wilderness town of Asterryl. The Black Collar will be serialized in several lengthy installments, each revealing new layers to the mysteries that shroud the plot.

The first 8 Chapters comprise the 1st Installment, while chapters 9-18 comprise the 2nd installment.

At this time it is still a Work-In-Progress, and an early draft.

If you enjoy dragons, fantasy novels, or want to see life through the eyes of fantasy's most iconic creature, I hope you'll dig in and enjoy.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter One

Chapter One

The sudden tolling of the warning bell startled Alvaranox from his slumber. The green dragon leapt to his paws, claws extended and teeth bared. He jerked his horned head up, only to smash it against the rafters that stretched across the roof of his enclosure. Pain rang out in his head, adding to the harsh, throbbing ache of what the dragon dismayingly realized was a hangover. The dragon pressed a paw to the base of a ridged, black horn as if to quell the throbbing beneath it.

The alarm bell tolled again, louder than before. The sound rattled around inside the dragon’s skull like a beast trying to escape its cage. The vibrant, echoing noise worsened the ache in the dragon’s head. He took a few slow breaths, his powerful heart hammering beneath the plates of his chest. How he hated the sound of that infernal bell.

I’m up!” The dragon snarled, shaking his head as though it would clear the sound. “I’m up already! Stop ringing that damn bell!”

The bell rang again anyway. It always did. Not that anyone else could hear it. The terrible tolling existed only in the dragon’s mind. As if the sound alone was not enough to jar the dragon from his slumber, the bell itself flickered into his vision and with it the world fell away.

The Black Collar: Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Alvaranox rose swiftly into the sea of stars that stretched out in all directions above Asterryl. Much as the dragon tried to fight it, a smile graced his muzzle. If he had a single friend in this world, it was certainly Nylah. That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to tear up her next batch of roses again just to spite her. A dragon had to draw the line somewhere after all.

Within the span of a few dozen wing beats and just as many breaths, the city of Asterryl was already shrinking beneath the dragon. The herbs had not yet kicked in, and the exertion of flight was causing his head to ache worse than ever. Blood pulsed through his body. He could feel it thumping through the vast network of tiny veins in his wings, throbbing through the secondary heart chamber near his tail, and beating like some blacksmith’s hammer against the anvil of his brain.

Gods, he had to stop drinking so much.

The dragon blinked a few times, flicking his flight membranes closed across his eyes to fight off the winds buffeting his face. He shifted and flicked his wings, working his membranes against the air currents until he felt a pleasant, warm updraft. The hot air rising from the earth caught his wings, gently elevating him a little higher. Alvaranox stretched his wings to catch as much of the thermal current as possible, and then set himself to soar and glide. The less effort he had to put into flying, the sooner his headache would ease.

The Black Collar: Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Pain returned, stirring the dragon back to consciousness. He gasped, his black-horned head jerking up off the grassy ground. For a moment he could not recall where he was, or why he hurt so badly. Humans were all around him, pressing things against his body. The more they pressed on his belly, the worse he hurt.

Alvaranox screamed.

He’s waking up!”

Never mind that! Hold that bandage tight, I say!”

The dragon’s vision swam. He tried to focus on the people around him but found it impossible. He lifted a fore leg and saw blood caking it. Confusion and panic rolled through him. They were murdering him. The dragon tried to swipe at the one pushing upon his belly, yet he simply lacked the strength. His front leg dropped back to the ground, limp. Then more pain surged through his belly. He coughed, spat blood, and blessed unconsciousness wreathed him once again.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Four

Chapter Four

Alvaranox wandered the wasteland. For hours, he had trekked across the place on foot. His wings were too weak to carry him. So he walked across blasted, broken earth. His paws ached from the blistering heat and the many cracked, rugged pebbles and stones upon which he stepped. The scorched red hue of the parched ground stretched on endlessly. The color of it burnt his eyes. The horizon looked infinite, seared and scarred by the baking sun. The endless expanse was only broken by the twisted skeletons of long dead trees. Most of their limbs had rotted away in ages past, leaving only desiccated hunks of gray and black wood.

Somewhere in this wretched place there was a bell. Alvaranox intended to find it, and beat the damn thing into dust.

Yet for as far as Alvaranox walked, he never seemed to get anywhere. For every ten broken trees he passed there were ten more. And no matter how much time elapsed, the sun somehow seemed to rise just a little higher without ever actually reaching a zenith. The sun glared down at him in fury and burned his wings. They stung and ached, and he could not hide them from the ever-present sunlight. When he shifted them against his back they felt raw and blistered.

The Black Collar: Chapter Five

Chapter Five

Warm, bright sunlight awoke him. Alvaranox opened his eyes to bleary copper slits. Why was so much sun pouring through his windows? Movement drew his attention. People stirred around him, whispering amongst themselves. Why were there people in his home? If Kirra had decided to give another tour, he was going to bite her. Alvaranox shifted and the sudden pulse of throbbing pain deep in his belly and throughout his paw reminded him of the previous night’s events.

Ah, yes. All that sunlight was because he was outside. And all those damn people were there to help tend his injuries.

Go away,” he muttered without lifting his head. He did not like having so many people around him. The dragon’s words came out as little more than an incomprehensible slur. His tongue felt swollen, pressing against his teeth. His head ached, his spine felt stiff.

The Black Collar: Chapter Six

Chapter Six

Afternoon stretched into early evening by the time Alvaranox awoke. The sun had not yet set, but it hung low in the sky as though growing ever drowsier. Soon the weight of the coming night would settle upon it and push the sun below the horizon, bathing the world in darkness once more. For a little while the dragon just lay upon his bed of blankets, pillows and furs, staring at the wall. He tried to recall his dreams, but they eluded him, dancing before his eyes like fireflies just out of reach. Something about his youth, he thought.

The Black Collar: Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

Within a few days, Alvaranox began to adjust to the new rhythms of his life. His recuperation was a frustrating, arduous process and he spent much of it laying amidst his bedding. In the mornings he awoke, ate a bit of breakfast, and limped his way to his copse of trees. Nylah and Kirra attended his wounds, cleaning and re-bandaging them once a day. That in and of itself was a laborious process as the dragon’s injuries were still very fresh and quite tender. Though the women did all they could to minimize his pain it was still an unpleasant undertaking.

When Alvaranox grew weary of laying around in his home all day, he hobbled out into the fields beyond his sleeping chambers. Much as he hated being stared at it, he did enjoy the chance to lay in the sun for a little while. And the guards made sure to keep the crowds at a distance so they did not bother him. The dragon was a bit surprised to see how many people showed up every day as if to keep track of his recovery. He was also pleasantly taken aback to find them delivering gifts to him. Mostly food and treats from pungent and flavorful smoked fish, to iced cakes and honey rolls. A few even delivered bouquets of flowers or potted plants. The dragon had no idea what the hell he was expected to do with those, but Nylah and Kirra set them up around his home.

The Black Collar: Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

Warm sunlight poured across Alvaranox’s back as he wandered the wilds beyond the moors. He had been born here, far from Asterryl. Where the land stretched on, green and gray in all directions. Everything was wreathed in moss and heather, in grass and boulders. Flowers were sprinkled amidst rocky bluffs that rose like the chitinous plates atop some monstrous insect. There were no humans here. No towns, no roads. No ruins of their fallen civilizations. The wilds went on forever.

He was young. Barely even on his own, but like all young dragons the urge to strike out came with the onset of adolescence. And so he wandered the wilds and explored the world around him. Days passed him by in moments, months in slow breaths, and years passed in minutes. His body grew strong as he learned the ways of the wild. His mother had taught him to fly and to hunt and to fight, but experience made him better at all those things. Encounters with others of his kind taught him to make friends, and enemies, and allies. Instincts and desires taught him to mate.

The Black Collar: The Line In The Sand

The Line In The Sand is the Second Installment of the serialized fantasy novel, The Black Collar. It comprises the next ten chapters in the Black Collar saga.

It remains a WIP, and I hope you'll enjoy watching the story come to life as much as I'm enjoying writing it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine

Booming thunder rattled the windows in Alvaranox’s home. Flashes of blue-white light illuminated the dragon’s sleeping chamber in flickering moments. The rumbles that followed rolled through the night in stuttering cascades of furious sound. Curtains of heavy rain battered the land in ceaseless waves. Between the sharp crackles and deep reverberations of thunder, the rain that pounded against the roof and windows filled the night with a steady, hissing rush.

Usually Alvaranox liked the rain. It reminded him of an old lover he’d met in a downpour. The memory made him smile. The dragon also knew Asterryl needed the rain after over a month of hot sun. What the dragon did not like was all the damn thunder that was keeping him awake all night.

The rains had started that morning, gentle at first but soon interspersed with thunder and heavy downpours. All day long and into the night the rain and storms had ebbed and flowed, filling the streets and gutters with muddy streams. Sometime in the middle of the night the storms reached their apex.

If Alvaranox was lucky, the floods would wash Asterryl away and he wouldn’t have to protect it any longer.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten

The moors stretched on forever. To the tiny green dragon who bound across boulder-strewn hills, there was no end to the emerald world. The grass was soft and the sun was warm. The hatchling was always happy. The burning of his little legs was outweighed by joyous exuberance as he raced up another hill. At the top of the rise he scrambled up a snaking ridge of gray rock. Tiny black claws caught purchase in crevices and patches of moss as the hatchling climbed. When he stood atop the highest point the could find, he tipped his stubby-horned head back, roaring to the brilliant blue skies.

Rraaaaaaahh!” At his age it was more joyful squeal than ferocious roar.

The roar that echoed was deep and resounding, full of primal strength and wild power. To the little hatchling that roar could have shaken the clouds from the sky. It rattled loose pebbles atop the ridge of rock, sent lizards skittering for hiding places. Yet the hatchling was unafraid. That roar was not a thing of terror or anger. For the little dragon, that reverberating cry, that earth-shaking roar held only love because it came from his mother.

Momma, look!” The hatchling chirped down at his mother from atop the peak that seemed so high. “I’m bigger than you!”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven

I don’t want to go to the market, Kirra.”

Alvaranox lay on warm grass, his vast green wings outstretched in the golden morning sunshine. All around him stretched a blanket of soft green. The sun-warmed grasses were interwoven with vast tapestries of vibrant color. The wildflowers that sprang up after the storms had nearly conquered the entire meadow. Clusters of cherry red flowers and tall stalks covered in tiny purple blossoms were the most recent additions to the rainbow of wild colors. A clear trail of flattened grass and crushed flowers marked the area walked from his home to the middle of the meadow every day. A wider area of meadow had long since rebounded from the trampling boots of the Council and their guards.

Come along, Sling.” Kirra giggled. “You need the exercise before you get your stitches out.”

Alvaranox scrunched his muzzle and flared his spines. “Don’t you dare call me Sling.” His foreleg and paw were healing well and nearly ready to bear his weight. Yet Kirra wouldn’t let the dragon go without the sling until his stitches were removed.

Very well,“ Kirra said, waving her hand. Then she smirked. “Hopalong it is. Now hobble after me, Hopalong. I’ll buy you some lunch and a treat.”

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve

Kirra tried not to giggle at Alv’s misbehavior as the two of them made their way from the food court towards one of the outer rings. There was a large permanent stall there where a local baker sold a variety of pastries baked in a simple brick oven at the back of the stall. Both the oven and the stall were sheltered by a heavy canvas tarp dyed a dark blue shade. It made it look as though the pastry vendor was sitting beneath a clear evening sky even in the midst of a rain storm. Bits of straw and sticks hung down from several of the tarp’s corners where birds made nests in the supporting framework.

A young man was just placing a new tray of pastries into the wood-fired oven when the dragon approached. A bit of soot marked his face as well as his gray clothing. He turned around, wide-eyed as he spotted the dragon approaching. The baker swallowed so forcefully it seemed a wonder to Alvaranox that his stomach didn’t distend as a result. The man looked at the dragon, looked at Kirra, then at the dragon again.

Hello, dragon,” the baker said, failing spectacularly at keeping his nervousness out of his voice. “How may I…service…you?”

Service me?” Alvaranox blinked, pulling his horned head back till his neck curled in an S. “I prefer females.”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen

You’re certain I am ready?” Alvaranox lay upon his back atop his pile of soft things, his wings half folded at his sides. Sunlight poured through the windows in golden streamers that danced on the dragon’s green scales. Alvaranox tucked his front paws against his chest. He held his head up and cocked it to watch the women working. The bitter smells of herbs and medicinal spirits tainted the air. “You are certain, aren’t you?”

Nylah shook a pair of shears at him as she crouched next to his shoulder, near the front of his wing. “You’re the one who’s been pestering us to get these stitches out.”

Alvaranox snorted, his spines raising. Things seemed a little more nerve wracking now that the moment had arrived. Despite the dragon’s glare and flared crests, hints of poorly hidden concern softened his voice. “What if I’m wrong?”

Kirra clambered up atop the dragon’s chest, settling herself just below his plates. “Then your wounds will pop open again.” Kirra sounded far too cheerful to be speaking about something so gruesome. She tapped her own set of shears against the dark green plates that protected the dragon’s heart and lungs. “And we’ll have to start all over. Doesn’t that sound fun?”

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen

Alvaranox relished the feel of the wind against his body. To the dragon the winds touch was a lover’s caress. Currents of air brushed against scales, and teased sensitive wing membranes. The dragon’s wings felt every tiny current, every updraft, every faint change in temperature. He flicked his flight membranes closed to protect his eyes. For the dragon who‘d spent long years alone and many weeks in recovery, his spiraling ascent was nearly erotic. Wind stroked every scale. His life may be lonely but at least he had the wind to call his companion.

Gods. Alvaranox cursed himself. First he was staring at Kirra’s haunches, now he was getting excited by the wind. He had to find a female.

Alvaranox rose higher, then flared his wings and rode the currents. Fingers of air teased his scales, stroked his wings. Asterryl spread beneath him as he climbed, stretching like an old gray scab upon the otherwise green land. Even if the city had not enslaved him, it would look like a blemish on the earth to the dragon.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen

Alvaranox had collected himself by the time Kirra returned. He sat upon his haunches with his black spined tail curled around his paws. The sun drooped lower and lower as though the sky itself were struggling to stay awake. The early evening light painted the dragon’s copper eyes in shades of vibrant gold, hiding his emotions.

Kirra came around the side of Nylah’s house, following the trail that Alvaranox’s paws cut through the grass over the years. An odd, jangling clatter accompanied her return. She pushed weeping willow boughs out of her face, passing beneath the ancient tree. Kirra brushed her hand over the surface of one of the colorful murals Nylah was painting across the wall of her home. Alvaranox hoped the paint was dry or Kirra’d be in trouble.

Ready!” Kirra announced as she came around the back of Nylah’s home. By then Nylah was back to gardening as though she hadn’t been comforting a sobbing dragon only minutes earlier. “You sure you don’t want to go, Nylah?”

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen

By the time the rising sun first painted the earth in burnt shades of gold, Alvaranox and Kirra were already in the sky.

Comforted by Kirra’s presence and her determination to somehow make things right, Alvaranox’s slumber had been peaceful. Kirra wrapped herself in a blanket and slept alongside the dragon after he promised to try not to roll over and crush her in his sleep. A blushing bruise was spreading across the inky eastern horizon by the time the dragon was out hunting breakfast. When he returned he found Kirra was awake and waiting on the dragon to light her cooking fire. Once the two of them had filled their bellies, it was time to go collect some trophies. With Kirra’s help, Alvaranox secured a heavy burlap bag around his neck before taking to the skies. At least Kirra managed to avoid screaming during the ascent this time.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen

Late afternoon sun painted the island gold when Alvaranox and Kirra returned. Alv left the sword and helmet behind. They reminded him more of death than victory. The sword was too heavy for Kirra. Alvaranox decided to let it rot in the sun along with the bodies of his attempted slayers. The dragon did not want to talk to Kirra about his latest vision but nor he did not want to leave her worrying. Alvaranox told her he saw memories from another Guardian Slave who could not protect her home.

As Alvaranox flew back towards Asterryl, questions whirled in his mind like dead leaves spinning in the wind. Why was he seeing these things now? Why did he see Asterryl burning? Was the collar trying to warn him what would happen if he failed? He did not want to be Asterryl’s slave, yet he held no real desire to see the place burned or its people slaughtered.

That dragon in his vision. She seemed so heartbroken. She must have cared for those people. It seemed as though they’d treated her better than Asterryl treated him. Why were the men in the black and red cloaks there? Were they not dragon slayers?

Alv,” Kirra said, loudly enough to draw the dragon from his thoughts. “We should go for a swim.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Black Collar: Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Eighteen

Moonlight painted the silent world silver. Alvaranox flew above the nighttime moors, unable to recall his ascent. The world was still and quiet. No animals howled, no insects chirped. Nothing stirred in the darkness beneath the dragon’s wings. The land seemed frozen. On and on he flew and the moon did not move in the sky. The moors were as endless and without life as the waste he wandered in his dreams.

This land seemed unfamiliar. He knew he had been here many times and yet everything seemed so different. The dragon could not recall why he had taken to the skies. His memories were cracked fragments of a shattered mirror, reflecting only moments and broken ideas. Flight. Swimming. Friend. Love. Fear. Crumbled walls. A flash of something more substantial flickered in his mind, but the black cloak edged in scarlet vanished from memory before he could gasp it.

In its place came new memories. A stream of images and colors poured through his mind. The colors rolled across his vision, painting the world around him. In an instant the dark, lifeless moor was replaced by color, beauty and a thriving village. He stood on the streets, near a bridge that crossed a rushing river. The streets beneath his paws was freshly cobbled, the buildings that surrounded him recently constructed. The village was prosperous and growing by the day.

A bell tolled in the distance.