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Excerpt from 'The Diamond Sword of Tor'

Chapter One..Missing

King Erun I of Cardoney, awoke to find that his wife was not beside him. At first he was not too worried, because she would often get up early to go flying with Glenra, her silver Dragon. Ever since Glenra had agreed to carry her during the war, and then unaccountably formed a bond, she had never been able to get enough and flew as often as she could. She did love Erun dearly, but flying with Glenra was now in her blood and was a fact that could not be denied. So when Erun was busy, or early in the morning like now, she would take to the skies with her Dragon.

Erun grunted and went to turn over and get some more sleep, when blearily he realised something was not right. Impinging upon his semi-awake state was the angry bellowing of a dragon outside, and the insistent calls into his mind from Corella his soul mate and the only yellow dragon in existence.

“What ails you Corella?” he asked.

“Have you not noticed that Lelia is not beside you, yet Glenra is still here?”

Now he was awake, wide awake, and to his complete surprise, dressed. It never ceased to amaze him how this always seemed to happen in times of stress. As the thought went through his mind, his sword in its scabbard lifted from the back of a chair and buckled itself around his waist. The magic was at work again and his subconscious was doing what his conscious mind had never been able to.

His gaze flicked to the bell pull, and it started to jerk up and down causing an unholy and strident clanging from the bell in the servants’ quarters. Within seconds he could hear running footsteps, and his breathless and slightly overweight Butler burst in through the door.

“The Queen is missing Albert,” he said, “She hasn’t gone flying because her dragon is still here. Alert the Captain of the Guard and get him to organise search parties. Did no-one see her go, or be taken? See what you can find out, and get back to me as quickly as you can.”

“At your command Your Majesty,” said the Butler and broke into a run from the room.

“Corella, why can’t Glenra sense her?”

“She doesn’t know, she is in complete distress and has no idea where to look. It is fortunate that she used to be a free dragon, or I would be afraid for her life.”

“Why did you not notice where she went, or if she was taken who took her?”

“We don’t know, we did see a trail of fire going away to the south, but put it down to some natural phenomenon and thought no more about it. I only mention it because it was the only odd thing that has happened.”

“Well right now, I am dismissing nothing as a coincidence. I will be with you in a few minutes when all is organised here.”

More running feet could be heard approaching his room, but this time they stopped at the door and something heavy beat on the door before it swung open to reveal the Captain of the Guard.

“Your Majesty,” said Captain Egmar.

Egmar was only a few months older than Erun and his long-time friend. He had performed valiantly and professionally during the interstate conflicts of a couple of years ago, hence his rapid promotion into the officer ranks. Of course, at such a young age, his position had a lot to do with Erun’s influence, but after only a few months in the job he had shown that his appointment was not out of place. He had turned out to be an excellent Captain and soon earned the respect and admiration of his men, even those hardened veterans with longer service.

“The Queen is missing Egmar. The circumstances are unusual and I fear the worst. I can give you no information other than the fact that she is gone. Arrange for Parliament to be informed, and send word to Governor Nordlight in Vanticor that I have need of him,”

He paused in thought for a moment,

“It might be wise if he hands over to his deputy before he leaves.”

“Ok Majesty, I’ll get to it.”

Erun made his way through the Castle corridors until he reached the main courtyard, and then headed across the drawbridge to Corella. But before he reached her, a knarled and very elderly hand caught his sleeve and stopped him dead in his tracks. He turned towards the hand ready to strike, and was greeted by the sight of a stooped, hooded and very old woman.

“No good will come of this,” her toothless mouth spat at him, “I saw a great flash of light travelling to the south. Only the devil could produce its like. There is evil at work here.”

He laid his hand on her shoulder,

“I had heard of the strange light, but thank you old mother, your observation will be rewarded.”

He turned away and hurried on towards Corella.

“Corella, will Glenra be able to help us given the circumstances?”

“If it is to help her find Lelia, then yes I’m sure she will,”

“Ask her if she will carry another in this cause.”

“She agrees.”

“I will give her a note for Nordlight in Vanticor. She must deliver it and return with him.”

The clatter of hooves on the drawbridge alerted Erun to a rider leaving the castle. His outstretched hand brought the man to a stop, reining in his horse a few feet away from Erun.

“You are tasked with conveying a message to Nordlight?” he asked.

“I am, your Majesty.”

“There is no need, when I have saddled the Queen’s dragon, Glenra will take it in your stead.”

He reached up and took the proffered parchment from the messenger, who saluted and turned his horse back towards the castle to report the change of plan to Egmar. It was only the work of a few minutes to fit Glenra with her saddle, and attach the message. Then she was airborne and within seconds had disappeared into the dragons’ realm.

By now, soldiers were pouring out of the Castle with Captain Egmar in the lead, and the main alarm which had been tolling away for the last few minutes became silent. Egmar began to efficiently organise them into search teams and directed each team to cover a specific area of the countryside.

Erun felt like a spare part. He was the King and had responsibilities so he couldn’t just up and swan off whenever he felt like it. He could only wait for Nordlight. Nordlight had been heir to the throne, but had indicated his desire not to succeed before his father had died, and had accepted instead the position of Ambassador to Vanticor. King Arunay, had confessed in his last moments that Erun was also his son, and had named him as his heir before witnesses.

The Interstate wars had left most countries without Heads of State, and the populations of those countries had voted to join into a single nation under the name of Cardoney, with King Erun as its head. Erun had realised that a Country as large as Cardoney had now become, could not possibly be ruled by a single man unaided. So he had formed a parliament to take over the day to day running of the country, and decreed that each new country that joined would become a Region under a Governor appointed by the crown. Nordlight had been the first Governor that he had appointed, and that was of the newly formed Region of Vanticor.

Erun knew that he would have to wait several hours for Nordlight to arrive, because despite Glenra arriving in Vanticor almost immediately via the Dragons’ Realm, she could not return the same way carrying a rider. The Dragons’ Realm had been the most closely guarded secret of Dragonkind for centuries. Not even riders had been told. Through it, dragons were able to cover extreme distances in a fraction of the time it would normally take, but on pain of death were forbidden to carry riders with them. That is, except for the yellow dragon, who according to legend had carried a rider and defeated all attempts to take her life for it. The rest of the Dragons had eventually given up and granted her dispensation. Corella had been stunned when she found that the same dispensation was being extended to her.

Several hours later, Lelia had still not been found, and it was apparent that she was also not within five kilometres of the Castle. Erun was beginning to panic, he could not bear the thought that anything could happen to Lelia, and was becoming pretty much useless because of it. He recognised it as did everyone else, and the people around him stopped referring to him to resolve problems. They all knew their jobs and just did them, fervently hoping that they were making the right decisions.

Despite Erun’s hopes, no word came from anywhere, not even a rider bearing a ransom note. He could have coped with one, and he would have readily paid any amount asked. It was the silence and the not knowing that was the most difficult to take.

He was beginning to despair, when a silver glint approaching in the sky caught his eye, and it soon resolved into Glenra who swept in to land nearby. On her back was Nordlight, pale as death and laying flat across the dragon’s back clinging on for dear life.

“Hi Nord, You can open your eyes now, you are on the ground.”

Nordlight opened one eye and looked around cautiously, then began to unbuckle the dozens of straps that were holding him to the saddle. As soon as the last one had been released, he slid off the dragon and hurried to Erun’s side.

“Thanks Glenra,” he said then turned to Erun, “don’t ask me to do that again. That little trip I took from the lake on Corella a couple of years back was bad enough, but this one was in a hurry.”

Knowing that the situation had already been explained to Nordlight via the parchment, Erun felt that there was no need to go over it again,

“I can’t function Nord, not with Lelia missing. I know it and so does everyone else. I can’t have them losing confidence in their King so I need to appoint a Regent,” he said, “I just simply can’t apply myself fully to my position. I just can’t. So I’m afraid that if you agree, it has to be you.”

For a second Nordlight looked thoughtful,

“I know that I certainly don’t want the job permanently, but for you my friend, I’m sure I can manage it for a little while.”

Erun reached out and clasped Nordlight’s arm,

“Thanks, you are truly a friend when I am in need, but you can’t do it alone, so what say we send Glenra back to Vanticor to fetch your wife?”

“Good idea, Marta was laughing fit to burst when she saw how terrified I was on Glenra. Let us see if she can survive the experience.”

Glenra had calmed considerably since the morning, and her flight to Vanticor had helped to make her feel useful in the search, so for the first time that day, she spoke,

“I am on my way,”

A mighty flap of her wings and she was airborne. She banked sharply towards Vanticor and once again vanished into the Dragons’ Realm

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