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So, You Woke Up A Dragon? An 8-Step Guide to Survival from Brian Naslund

Image Placeholder of - 58For our final guest post of Dragon Week: Tokyo Drift, we asked Fury of a Demon author Brian Naslund: What would you do if you woke up a dragon? Check out his step by step guide for what to do if YOU someday wakeup a dragon below!


As a human, the chances of transforming into a dragon overnight are low, but they’ll never be zero. So, it’s best to be somewhat prepared for the possibility.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to surviving and thriving in your new situation.

By Brian Naslund

  1. Don’t Panic

Behind dragonslayers, panic is your worst enemy. You don’t want to lose your cool and accidentally demolish a nearby school with a bunch of wild tail swipes. That will for sure come back on you, even if it was an accident.

So, take a few deep breaths. You can even try that Navy SEAL box-breathing technique. If it’s good enough for the SEALS, it’s good enough for a dragon!

  1. Determine Whether You’re a Wyvern or a Dragon

In your new life as a mythical creature, proper classification and nomenclature is going to be vital. So, take a look at your right arm, and determine whether your wing is a part of the appendage, or separate from it, which will indicate that you are…

…just kidding. This doesn’t matter right now. You’re above labels. Move on to step 3.

  1. Got wings? Use them!

Some guides may have you holding off on your first flight, but I say life’s short and you’ve lived the entirety of yours without being able to fly, until now. Go for it. Spread those wings and cruise amongst the clouds for a bit. Watch out for airplanes.

  1. More of an aquatic dragon situation? Go for a swim.

Humans have explored a paltry 5% of the ocean. Guess what? You’re now lord of the other 95% (unless Aquaman exists in which case, Boss Fight).

  1. Find a safe place to land, then get a sense of your moral alignment

Now that you’ve seen the sights, it’s time to do some inner reflection.

While soaring amongst the clouds, did you feel an overwhelming urge bathe a town in flames? That’s a sign that you might be Chaotic Evil. On the other hand, is your head filled with a bunch of riddles that—when answered correctly—make you want to blab on about buried treasure or share bits of wisdom? That’s more of a Lawful Neutral vibe. You’ll have more friends.

Whatever you’re feeling, be honest with yourself! Self-deception is almost as problematic as panic and dragonslayers.

  1. Look beyond immediate gratification. Do you want to stay a dragon?

Okay, the sky/ocean romp was a lot of fun, but down to brass tacks: you’ve undergone a significant life change, do you want to stay this way? If yes, move on to Step 7 without delay.

If no, you’ll need to do some investigating. Did you piss off any sketchy looking people lately? Someone who may have been a sorcerer/witch/wizard in disguise? Have you recently failed a test of conscience or character? What about robbing any potentially enchanted tombs?

Whatever the potential cause of transformation, it’ll take specific research to undo, but this is a good place to start. Good luck ditching those scales.

  1. Find a lair.

I’d suggest something remote, but spacious. Beneath a mountain is always a popular spot, but don’t be afraid to explore alternatives. Remote jungles. An oasis in a desert. Deep sea crevasse if you’re aquatic. And don’t stop at just one lair! A home for each time zone isn’t a bad goal.

  1. Prepare for Dragonslayers and/or Adventurers

Even if you pick a remote lair, the way things go, you’re going to be getting some visitors eventually. Their disposition will be impacted by the decisions you made in Step 3.

If you’re on the Lawful/Neutral side of things, you can expect nice interactions! Prepare riddles and rewards accordingly. Keeping a variety of teas around is also a nice touch.

If you went Black Hat in Step 3, dragonslayers are going to be a problem. Here are a few tips:

  1. You’ll probably receive steady stream of unprepared and angry “dragonslayers” who are just trying to avenge your latest act of destruction. You can ignite these fools on sight. Enjoy this work, but don’t get complacent. Hidden amidst this chum, there are people who actually know what they’re doing.
  2. Beware of an organized group who all seem to have a specific role in battle (wizard, archer, healer, etcetera). The well-balanced “D&D party” approach to dragonslaying is highly effective, so treat them with caution and respect.
  3. If a dude with blue face tattoos and a spear shows up, bail. Just bail completely. Fly around the world and find a new lair. Nobody will give you guff…you’re a dragon, and that guy was dangerous.

This concludes my basic survival guide for life as a dragon. I hope you’ve found it useful. If you’re looking for more guides, check out: Fire Breathing 101: An Introduction to Unleashing Your Inner Flame or Advanced Aeronanical Warfare: The Air Force Will Shake When Your Shadow Drops.

Brian Naslund had a brief stint in the New York publishing world but quickly defected to tech in Denver where he does internet marketing. He is the author of the Dragons of Terra series. The final installment, Fury of a Demon is on sale now.

Order Fury of a Demon here:

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Excerpt: Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund

amazons bns booksamillions ibooks2 43 indiebounds

Image Placeholder of - 96Brian Naslund’s Fury of a Demon is the final installment in a fast-paced adventure series perfect for comic book readers and fans of heroic fantasy.

War makes monsters of us all…

The war against Osyrus Ward goes poorly for Bershad and Ashlyn. They are pinned in the Dainwood by monstrous alchemical creations and a relentless army of mercenaries, and running out of both options and allies.

The Witch Queen struggles with her new powers, knowing that the secret of unlocking her dragon cord is key to stopping Ward’s army, she pushes forward with her experiments.

Meanwhile, with every wound Bershad suffers, he gets closer to losing his humanity forever, and as the war rages, the exile turned assassin turned hero isn’t even sure if being human is something he wants.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund, on sale 08/31/2021.


1: Private Rigar

Dainwood Jungle, Sector Two

Wormwrot scouts found the mud totems an hour before dark. Lieutenant Droll called a halt.

The men crowded around to get a look. There were about fifty of the little bastards, pinched from the earth like miniature demons, twisted into positions of suffering, and adorned with all manner of unsettling decorations: Broken fingernails. Shattered bone fragments. Human eyeballs.

The grisly scene made Rigar’s skin crawl.

“Fucking animals,” mumbled their sergeant, Grotto. “Just got no decency at all.”

That meant something, coming from Grotto. Before the reformation of Wormwrot, he’d been muscle at one of Commander Vergun’s gambling dens. Apparently, his favorite punishment for catching men cheating at dice was grabbing their fingers and tearing them off with his bare hands.

“Wouldn’t say they’ve got zero decency,” said Lieutenant Droll, scratching at one of his wild mutton chops, which had streaks of silver amidst the dirty black mane. “They just don’t dole much out to foreign soldiers encroaching on their land.”

Grotto gave Droll a cold look. The men didn’t care for each other, that was known. If the enemy didn’t kill one of them soon, Rigar was fairly certain they’d kill each other.

In that event, Rigar privately hoped that Grotto turned out to be the murdered party. Droll was a strict commander with no tolerance for laziness, cowardice, or panicked behavior during a fight. But he was generally fair with his men, and he’d kept them alive this long. Grotto was plain evil—here for the blood and the violence as much as the money. He’d inflict pain on the enemy when they were available. When they weren’t, Grotto’s ire often shifted to his own men.

“Should we turn back to an extraction point?” asked a new recruit, whose name Rigar hadn’t bothered to learn. He’d only been with them a week. At this point, Rigar didn’t learn anyone’s name unless they proved they could survive for a month in the Dainwood.

Given how bad the last few months had been, half the men in the unit were anonymous to him. They’d most likely stay that way.

“You scared of some mud figurines, soldier?” Grotto asked him.

The recruit shrugged. “Don’t they got magical powers? Or command forest monsters or something?”

“Forest gods,” someone down the line corrected.

Grotto spat. Sighed. “These two idiots.”

Droll stepped in. “They don’t have magical powers. But the fact those eyes haven’t been stolen by crows means they’re recent. That means we stay on the ground ’till we root ’em out. We’ll head to Fallon’s Roost for the night. Hunker down with the skeleton crew posted there.”

“Fuck that,” said Grotto. “I say we—”

Grotto stopped talking when a long shadow fell over him and stayed there.

Their unit’s acolyte had come up the line, and now towered over them. Horns made from dragon bones jutted from his scalp. His eyes glowed an unnatural, orange color. Apparently, the earliest acolytes all wore masks that hid their disturbing faces, but the latest war models didn’t need them.

Strange as they looked, they all had simple, numeric identifiers. This one was 408.

“What is it?” Acolyte 408 hissed. His voice was raspy and stressed. Reminded Rigar of burnt meat crackling over a fire.

“More of their mud statues, sir,” said Droll.

In general, Wormwrot wasn’t big on sirs and salutes. Long as you followed your orders when the steel was out and the blood was flying, Vergun allowed his grunts to keep things pretty informal. But Osyrus Ward was their employer on this contract, and his terrifying acolytes tended to illicit a stiffer response from the men.

“Figured we’d make for Fallon’s Roost to pass the night, then go searching in the morning,” Droll continued.

Acolyte 408 surveyed the totems on the road for a moment, then stomped through them, flattening a significant number with his swollen feet.

He headed toward Fallon’s Roost. They followed.

The acolytes were a mixed bag in Rigar’s opinion. Terrifying as all hell—and known to murder Wormwrot grunts for no discernible reason. If a man took a piss in a place that an acolyte didn’t like, he could get his head torn off for the infraction. But they were gods in combat. Rigar had personally seen Acolyte 408 send thirty-three wardens down the river—tore ’em apart like chaff with the razor-sharp spikes that popped from his fists during a fight.

The memory still gave Rigar nightmares.

They walked for an hour before Fallon’s Roost came into view. It was one of the largest holdfasts along the northern rim of the Dainwood.

When they got within a hundred strides of the fortress, that same new recruit stubbed his toe on something metallic.

“Ow, shit!” hissed that recruit, frowning at the offending object, which was a bunch of armor balled up around a skeleton. “What the fuck is that?”

“Dead Jaguar,” said Rigar.

The recruit frowned. “How’d he get all balled up like that?”

“You don’t know?”

The recruit shrugged. “Tell me.”

Rigar sighed. The prospect of a night in the jungle behind proper walls had relaxed him enough to tell the story. Which he could do, since he’d been there.

“This here’s the site of the biggest victory we’ve won against the Jaguars to date. Wormwrot took control of the holdfast early in the war and we’d been using it as our forward deploy. The Jaguars took offense to that, and attacked, which was an exceedingly foolish idea, seeing as we had twenty acolytes on the walls.”

“So, an acolyte did this?”

“Well, that’s actually a matter up for debate,” Rigar said, then glanced at Droll.

“There was a sorceress,” Droll said. “I fucking saw her.”

“Sorceress?” the recruit asked.

“Yes. The Jaguars had a woman with them when they attacked. She wasn’t wearing any armor and she wasn’t carrying weapons, but she went charging into the fray all the same. When the first acolyte dropped off the walls, she cast a spell that reduced any man wearing armor into a crumpled ball like the one you just stubbed your toe on. Look around.” He gestured across the field. “They’re everywhere.”

“Why would she cast a spell on her own soldiers?” the recruit asked.

“Well, she obviously fucked it up. But before Fallon’s Roost, I heard acolytes were getting their spines ripped out like fish at the morning market.” Droll spat. “Nobody’s seen her since them, so I’m thinking she killed herself.”

The recruit looked at Rigar. “But you didn’t see her?”

“I was taking a shit when the attack started. By the time I got up to the walls, all the fun was over. Just a smoking crater and a bunch of dead Jaguars. No sign of a sorceress, alive or otherwise.”

“Yeah, but she’d have been pulled straight down to hell by the demons she fucked to get her powers,” Droll said, as if this was common and incontrovertible knowledge. “Plus, there was a whole group of Jaguars who retreated into the woods. We went after ’em, but lost the trail at a river.”

“What happened to the acolyte?” the recruit asked.

“Huh?”

“That jumped off the wall.”

“He was just stunned,” said Droll. “The bitch’s magic didn’t take. A few of those soft-palmed engineers with the dragonskin jackets flew in the next day and brought it back to Floodhaven. We stayed in the Roost for another week, but the Jaguars moved on, so we did too.”

“And now we’re back,” said Rigar. “Whole war’s just a horrible circle.”

They finished picking through the balled-up wardens and sounded off to the sentries on the wall. Droll sidled up next to Rigar as they headed into the holdfast and spoke to him in a low tone.

“I’ll need you with me on double-watch tonight. I want my veterans awake and alert once the sun goes down.”

That’s what Rigar liked about Droll. He’d pull you for a crap duty as needed, but he was always right there with you, shoveling the shit.

“You smell trouble?”

“They use those totems to mess with us, that’s known. Most of the time, when you get an obvious signal like that in the road, whatever savage made them are already two valleys over with no plans to return. But this time . . .” Droll trailed off. Scanned the hills. “Yeah, guess I do smell some trouble.”

Rigar made a show of taking a big breath in. “All I smell is this mud and shit and rot.”

“They tend to be pretty close traveling partners.”

Despite Droll’s premonition, Rigar relaxed once they were inside Fallon’s Roost.

The Dainwood was swollen with danger at all times, but after a week of patrols in the wild jungle, a decent wall and a big acolyte guarding their crew felt like spending the night in the palace of Burz-al-dun. The men who weren’t on duty set up their bedrolls in little groups and started dicing, complaining about the bugs or the dragons or both, and sneaking sips of booze from secret canteens.

There were a few hours before nightfall and Rigar’s watch, so he removed his boots and armor, then used a rag to wipe the red face paint from his face. Some Wormwrot men wore that shit day and night, which Rigar would never understand. Not only was it uncomfortable as all hell in the jungle damp, but it brought pimples all over his chin and cheeks.

When that was done, Rigar ran a quick inventory of his rashes. There were three distinct varieties: a black, bumpy one on his left foot, a flaky situation along his neck, and an angry, red flare up on his upper thigh. The upper thigh area itched like a bastard, and given the location, its potential spread made him nervous.

He dug into his pack and found the ointment a surgeon had given him before shipping out from Floodhaven. Applied it liberally to all three areas. It seemed to be working for the black bumps, but the others two were more stubborn. When they rotated back to Floodhaven, he was going to have words with that surgeon.

As he was finishing up, Private Wister came over.

“Any luck?” he asked with a hopeful look on his face.

“Huh?” Rigar asked, distracted by his dissatisfaction with the ointment. “Oh, right. The boots.”

He reached into his pack again and came out with Wister’s second set of boots, which had taken a rough beating during their last patrol. The men were responsible for keeping their own footwear in order during deployments, and the jungle’s dampness had a way of deteriorating them in a hurry. But Rigar had figured out a clever method for waterproofing a few months ago that involved mixing the useless rash ointment with boiled urine. He’d kept the recipe secret and started taking on contract work from fellow soldiers with ruined boots.

“Good as new,” he said, tossing them over.

Wister held them like they were decorated with diamonds. “They’ll hold up, like Cinder’s have?”

“Yep. You have the guarantee of Rigar’s Wartime Cobblery.”

Wister smiled, then tossed him a canteen. Rigar sniffed it and approved.

“Decent stuff, smells like.”

“That’s top-shelf juniper liquor outta Burz-al-dun,” said Wister. “Enjoy it.”

Rigar nodded. He might. Or, he might sell it off in a few more days when the rest of the men had emptied their canteens.

Wormwrot paid well, but price-gouging liquor in the gloom of the jungle paid better.

Rigar ate a quick dinner of half-rotten rice and a scrap of salted pork. The skyships had spent the last year making a concerted effort to deprive the enemy of food and forage, but a side effect was limited rations on their end, too. There were rumors of some major resupply coming in from Dunfar, which between the wars and the famines was the last country in Terra with viable farmland. Rigar liked Dunfarian cuisine. Lots of spices. But he wasn’t getting his hopes up until the food was in front of him.

He took a nap after dinner. Droll came through near dark and tapped him for the watch. Rigar grabbed his gear and made his way to the wall where he relieved the current sentry. He scanned the field ahead, keeping an eye out for the enemy as best he could in all the darkness. Moonlight glinted off the balls of dead wardens.

The night passed without incident. By the time the gray-light of early morning arrived, Rigar had succumbed to his baser instincts and been itching at his thigh rash with a purpose.

“Stop jerking off on watch, Rigar.”

Rigar turned around to find Droll approaching. “Hey, Lieutenant. I wasn’t jerking off, it’s these damn rashes.”

“Ointment not working?”

“Not really.” He forced himself to stop itching. “By Aeternita. Why would anyone ever live in this wretched, rash-inducing place on purpose?”

Droll shrugged. “Probably because the locals aren’t afflicted. Their forest gods protect them.”

Rigar grunted. “Very funny.”

Droll motioned to the field.

“Anything out there?” he asked.

“Just fog and a few Blackjacks in the distance.”

When they’d first arrived in Almira, the lizards hadn’t returned from the Great Migration yet. Gods, but those were good times, which was saying something because even without dragons, the Dainwood was still a horrific place, full of a thousand different slithering and crawling critters that could kill you with a single bite or sting. Their second day under the canopy, one newbie grunt accidentally set up his bedroll over a nest of giant jungle scorpions who’d stung him dozens of times.

The pain was so bad his nerves went all toxic. He turned delirious and shot himself in the face with a crossbow.

Now, Rigar longed for a time when the scorpions and ants invading your sleeping situation were the primary concern. The dragons of the Dainwood were more common than rats outside a butcher’s alley. In the last week alone, the great lizards had eaten five soldiers he knew personally. Three got scooped up while scouting ahead for fresh warrens, which is known to be dangerous work. But the other two got plucked straight out of camp on their way to breakfast.

How are you supposed to protect against that? A man needs breakfast.

“Hmm,” Droll said, still looking out in the fog. “I don’t like it. The Jaguars could be anywhere.”

“Think it’s true that the Flawless Bershad is fighting with ’em? You heard about the head thing, right?”

Three patrols in Sector Four went missing without a trace two weeks ago. Five days later, their heads turned up in a pile way down in Sector Twelve. A few days after that, the lone survivor turned up at a random extraction point in Sector Five, face swollen to hell with mosquito bites. He said the Flawless Bershad had massacred the patrols, along with some crazy man in white armor.

“I heard,” Droll said. “It’s dragonshit. That soldier was delirious.”

“But—”

“Vallen Vergun killed the Flawless Bershad back in Taggarstan,” Droll interrupted. “I saw that shit myself.”

“What, then his ghost killed the emperor of Balaria afterward?”

“Fuck no. But if you were the Horellian guard who let the emperor take the long swim during your shift, wouldn’t you make up a dragonshit story about how a legend like the Flawless Bershad was responsible?”

That notion had some merit, but before Rigar had a chance to say so, Acolyte 408 approached and sent a cold, silencing shiver down Rigar’s spine. Droll stiffened as well. They both turned around and saluted the hulking, gray-skinned man behind them.

“Report.”

“All clear, sir. Just fog and lizards out there.”

The acolyte’s void-like gaze shifted out over the tangled wilderness.

“Might be those totems were just a diversion,” Rigar said, trying to get the scary bastard to leave.

The acolyte turned to him. “Stay, vigilante. Stop fraternizing.”

“I’m patrolling the perimeter and assessing the morale of my men,” Droll said. “Not fraternizing.”

As far as standing up for your troops, that comment wasn’t much. But seeing as the bastard was two heads taller than a normal man and could pop sharpened bones out of his thick arms, Rigar thought that Droll had summoned some real stones to push back a mite.

The lieutenant scratched at his mutton chops with one hand, but he didn’t break eye contact or back down.

“Assess morale faster,” Acolyte 408 said. The he hopped off the rampart, landing in the muddy yard below. A jump like that would have sent a normal man’s kneecaps on long and independent journeys, but 408 marched back toward the holdfast without a hitch in his step.

“That asshole makes my cock shrink,” Rigar muttered.

“That help or hurt the rash situation?” Droll said, smiling.

Rigar scratched at his crotch again. “Nothing helps anything out here.”

“Shit, Rigar. That rash has turned you into a dour bastard. Look on the sunny side of this deal. Osyrus Ward’s conquered the whole fucking world and we’re on his side.”

“Not sure I’d call working for Osyrus Ward a sunny situation. I’ve heard he brings every corpse that comes back from the jungle to the top of that big tower he built. Fucks ’em before filling them with machinery and the like.”

“Osyrus is a twisted bastard, all right. But our commander is a known cannibal, so . . .”

“Thought those stories about Vergun were just rumors?”

“Naw. Castor all but confirmed it after he got shit-hammered during a dice game. And Castor would know. He’s been Vergun’s second-in-command for more than a year.”

“But isn’t Castor always the one who’s saying there’s gotta be a line somewhere, too? Eating a few people and fucking corpses are two different things.”

Droll shrugged. “There’s creepy shit all over this world. Longer you soldier, the longer you realize that trying to gauge the degrees of who’s worse is a waste of time. Just follow orders, kill what needs killing, and collect your coin if you survive.”

Rigar considered pointing out that Droll’s restrained view on soldiering was a minority outlook in Wormwrot. Most of the men had a murder-and-pillage-first, wait-for-orders-second kind of mentality. But he decided against prolonging the debate. It had been a long night and his bedroll was calling.

“I do like collecting coin,” Rigar muttered.

“And between normal wages and the cat bounties, we are making an awful lot of coin on this war.”

That was a fact. Wormwrot paid well for a mercenary outfit, but Commander Vergun had also issued special bounties on Dainwood Wardens: any man who came back to Floodhaven with one of their Jaguar Masks—and a witness confirming they came by it with violence—was given onehundred gold on the spot. Rigar had personally been paid six bounties, which was middle-of-theroad compared to others, but the men who pushed hard on the bounties often wound up with their eyeballs decorating mud statues.

“Just hope I get the chance to spend mine,” Rigar added.

He had made private plans with himself to use the coin he earned from the war to start up his own cobblery. Given his success with the waterproofing method, he figured that he could have even more success with proper tools and chemicals. And making shoes was a much better longterm vocation than hunting vicious warriors through the jungle.

“If you’re scared of dying, you can always bribe some official to give you a better posting,” Droll said with a smile. “Buy yourself a nice cushy posting on a cargo skyship.”

Rigar sighed. “Those things crash all the time, too.”

“Dammit, Rigar, I told you to look on the sunny side of things. That’s an order. Read me?”

Rigar sighed. “I read you, Lieutenant.”

“Good. Now, I best get back to patrolling before our gray-skinned overlord comes back and—”

Droll’s head exploded.

Wet chunks of skull and brain sprayed across Rigar’s face. The spatter forced one eye shut.

With the other eye, Rigar saw Droll’s body drop to the ground, neck stump pumping a remarkable amount of blood across the stones.

Rigar turned to the forest to find the source of such awesome destruction.

There was a big man in scaled armor the color of fresh snow charging across the field. He had a full helm covering his face and was cradling one of the balled-up warden corpses under one arm.

“Contact!” Rigar shouted, raising his crossbow.

Rigar pressed down on the loading mechanism as he aimed, which created a metal rumble inside the weapon and arranged a bolt with full tension in the chamber. In the precious seconds that took, the charging man had crossed half the field.

By Aeternita, he’s fast, Rigar thought, adjusting his aim for the speed.

When he was a boy, he’d hunted jackals with his father in the badlands of Balaria. This asshole was moving about that pace, despite the armor.

Rigar fired. Plugged him directly in the solar plexus. Kill shot. At least, it should have been.

The bolt shattered across his breastplate as if it was made of Pargossian glass.

Rigar squeezed down on the trigger and held it there, showering the man with bolts.

None of them had a visible impact.

By that time, Wister and Grotto had climbed up to the little stone wall, leveled their own repeating crossbows, and started releasing. They exploded around the charging man in a cloud of chaff. He reared back and threw the balled-up warden. Caught Wister in the chest and whipped him backward. He landed somewhere behind Rigar with a wet smack.

The white-armored man leapt over the wall and grabbed Grotto by the head.

“Morning,” he growled.

Then squeezed.

More blood splashed into Rigar’s eyes, blinding him and putting him on his ass. There were shouts from below. Then sounds of tearing flesh and joints. When Rigar managed to blink his eyes back into a semblance of vision, the white-armored man was looming over a fallen Wormwrot, beating him to death with his own arms.

Rigar stepped forward, planning to try a close-range crossbow bolt to the base of his neck, which looked like a potential weak spot. But the armored man saw him just as he was raising his crossbow. He swatted Rigar away with one of the arms.

Rigar was airborne for a few seconds, then he crashed through a wooden wall. Scraped the shit out of his face on something rough and sharp.

He tried to breathe. Couldn’t. Tried to stand up. Couldn’t. For the third time in as many minutes, he was blinded. All kinds of sharp, scratchy shit in his eyes. His boots were gone, and it took Rigar a second to realize that the white-armored man had hit him so hard that he’d been separated from his footwear.

He blinked until he could make out the blurry outlines of his surroundings. He’d been thrown into an old gardening shed. A bunch of rusted hoes were in one corner.

Still gasping for air, Rigar crawled through the hay, reaching the door and poking his head through.

The whole unit was rushing across the yard, blades drawn. Shouting.

The man in white armor jumped into the muddy fray. He’d dropped the arms and was swinging his fists left and right. He took no discernible damage from the swords and spears clattering against him, but dealt out killing blows each time his fist connected with a man, often jamming his whole arm straight through their armored bodies, then scooping out a bunch of organs as he pulled it back through.

He fought like an acolyte, which made Rigar wonder where Acolyte 408 was.

Less than a minute later, the man in white armor had slaughtered the whole platoon except for Westley, who had the new kind of dragon bone shield Osyrus Ward had designed. The man in white armor beat him back against the wall of the holdfast with a series of brutal punches and shoves and charges that dented the shields, but didn’t break them.

Before he could finish Westley off, Acolyte 408 came around the corner at a full run. Dragonbone barbs popped out of his arm as he ran, turning the limb into the equivalent of a morning star. He slammed his arm into the man in white armor, which sent him flying into the outer wall about thirty strides away, where he shattered two granite blocks and settled into a heap. Alive, but not in a rush to get up.

The acolyte crossed the yard. Stopped a few strides away.

“Master Ward said that we might encounter one of his older models in the field,” he hissed. “Such a primitive application.”

“Did its job, though.”

“Please. A relic like you could never defeat me.”

“Wasn’t trying to. Just wanted to clear the field and soak up the balance of your attention. Wouldn’t want none of it wandering to the top o’ that holdfast.”

The acolyte cocked his head. Looked to the holdfast.

Rigar looked up, too. Squinted. There was another man up there. He wasn’t wearing armor or a shirt or boots, but he was holding a long, queer-looking spear. His dark hair was whipping around in the strong wind.

The man jumped off the holdfast. Collided with Acolyte 408 and jammed the spear straight into his right eye, pinning him to the ground. Acolyte 408 tried to grab the spear shaft, but the man gave his weapon a hard twist.

Acolyte 408 went still.

The spearman was tall. Lean. His black hair was shorter than most Almirans kept it, but unruly and wild all the same. He also had a blue bar on each cheek and about sixty dragon tattoos running down his left arm.

The Flawless Bershad. Had to be.

For unclear reasons, Westley decided this was a good time to charge forward with a war howl and raised sword and braced shield.

Bershad whipped his spear around, shearing the shield apart and sliced Westley’s throat open— his larynx flew into the mud like a chucked stone. Westley fell over, clutching his throat.

Bershad turned back to acolyte 408. Peered into the wound in his eye like a man studying an animal burrow.

The armored man removed his helmet, revealing a long shock of greasy red hair.

“Clean?” he asked.

“Clean enough,” Bershad said. He looked around at the yard of corpses. “Whole thing went pretty smooth, all things considered.”

“Speak for yourself.” The red-haired man got up with a groan. Gave his body a gentle once-over. “Bastard broke a few o’ my scales. Cracked a rib, maybe. And I don’t repair the bastards all quick like you.”

Bershad shrugged. “You’re the one who wanted to go in strong.”

“Yeah.” The redhead smiled. Looked around. “Last time you had all the fun by yourself.”

“I wouldn’t call this fun, Simeon.”

“That’s ’cause you’re a morose bastard. You gotta see the joy in this. The beauty.”

Simeon went over to Westley and tore his head off.

“Again with that shit?” Bershad asked.

“Simple but effective war tactic.” Simeon moved to the next corpse. Pulled his head off, too. “The next Balarian patrol that comes through is gonna find all the bodies but no heads, and they’re gonna be wondering where they went. And when they don’t find ’em, they’re gonna keep wondering. ‘What happened to all those fucking heads?’ they’ll ask. Are the Jaguars eating them? Casting spells? Making bone fences? Who’s to say.”

He tore another man’s head off.

“And when the next battle comes, we’ll have the edge. ’Cause we know what happened to the heads, and they don’t.”

“Do you know how insane that sounds?”

“You lowlanders just don’t understand this type of war. Outnumbered like this—with limited territory and resources—killing the enemy ain’t enough.” He tapped his temple, leaving a bloody mark. “You gotta make war on their minds, too. On their dreams.”

“And tearing the heads off dead men will accomplish that?”

“Exactly. Doubt’s what kills a man, Silas! Doubt, and poor physical conditioning.”

“No. Sharp objects kill people. Doubt just bothers them when they’re trying to sleep at night.”

“Easier to kill a man who’s sleep deprived, too.”

Bershad shrugged. Then he shoved acolyte 408 onto his stomach, drew a meat cleaver from his belt, and started hacking into his spine. Not too hard—more like a butcher making careful quarters of a quality carcass he could sell for a premium.

“You give me shit for taking heads, but you’re the one mutilating all the grayskin creatures.”

“This serves a purpose. Those heads are just extra weight, and I’m not helping you carry them back.”

“Fine. I can always use the exercise. Because poor—”

“Physical conditioning kills men. Yeah. Got it.”

Simeon tore another man’s head off. Then stood up and took a long, deep breath.

“Smell that? Ghalamarian blood. I can always tell the difference. Smells kinda musty. Like bad wheat.”

Bershad sniffed the air.

“I smell it.” Another sniff. “Some of it hasn’t gone cold quite yet.”

Simeon smiled. “Interesting.”

Bershad turned and looked directly at Rigar—wild, green eyes narrowing. “I’ll get him.”

Before Rigar could even think about running away, Bershad had crossed the yard and yanked him out of the shed by his wrists, pulling so hard it felt like they’d come out of the sockets. He hauled him through the mud and left him in a heap. Glared down at him.

“Name.”

“R-Rigar. Private Rigar.”

“Where are you from?” Simeon asked.

“Pargos,” he said quickly.

Rigar was really from Cornish—one of the Ghalamarian cities that bordered the Skojit territory of the Razorback Mountains. But that seemed like an unwise origin to share.

“That right?” Simeon asked. “’Cause Rigar doesn’t sound particularly Pargossian. Their names always have a shitload of Ls in them. Calluckstan. Ackllemel. Mollevan. Like that.”

“Uh, I guess I’m an exception?”

Simeon gave him a long look, then crouched down. Up close, Rigar could see that his white armor was made from dragon scales that were battered with nicks and scars and dents. Beneath the scales, there were scores of small moving parts that fit to his muscular body like a snake’s skin.

“What do you think, Silas?”

“Pargossians all smell like those jasmine spices they trade,” Bershad said. “He smells like wheat and fear.”

“Wheat. Ghalamarians and their fucking wheat.” Simeon stood up. “Whelp, it’s settled. Gonna use Rigar’s skull as my new piss pot.”

He raised his bloody fist. Rigar dug around in his pockets for his shell, but his fingers were jelly.

“Wait.” Bershad stopped him. “Might be he does smell like jasmine after all. Yeah. I’m getting some whiffs of it—just traces on his breath, though. Could be my imagination.”

“Quite the conundrum,” Simeon said. “What’ll sway the balance, you think?”

“Oh, I’d say the value of the words his breath can form will have a direct impact.”

“I can be valuable!” Rigar said quickly, trying to think. “We’re under contract with Osyrus Ward. Wormwrot is supposed to find and map every dragon warren in the Dainwood. There’s something inside of them that the Madman wants. We find the warrens, and the acolytes come take it out.”

“I already know that,” Bershad said. “Gonna have to do better.”

Rigar tried to think of something else, but his mind was blank with fear.

“How long have you been soldiering for Wormwrot?” Bershad pressed.

“A month,” Rigar lied, figuring they’d have less sympathy for a veteran.

“Before that?”

“I was a hired blade for merchant galleys in and out of Taggarstan.”

“Why the change of vocation?”

Rigar shrugged. “Commander Vergun was hiring up pretty much any man who knew his way around a sword. And he pays better than anyone. Ten gold pieces a week.” Rigar swallowed. “We get an extra hundred for each Jaguar we kill.”

“Bounties, is it?”

Rigar nodded.

Bershad’s face darkened. “Where is Vallen Vergun?”

Rigar hesitated. “He moves around. Same as you. I . . . I don’t know where he is.”

“Ghalamarians are known for their lack of specific knowledge.” Simeon growled. He raised his blood-soaked fist again.

“Wait! Just wait!”

Simeon’s fist stayed where it was, poised over Rigar’s face and dripping blood onto his forehead. Rigar tried to think of something useful they wouldn’t already know.

“We use a secret code to rank the warrens. There’s a rating system based on the amount of vines and overgrowth coming out the entrance.” Rigar drew a series of symbols in the dirt beside him. “This is for a small one. This is medium. And these are for the largest. My crew’s never found a big one, but I heard from another private that Commander Vergun joins the escort crew personally to harvest them. Doesn’t want anything going wrong.”

Bershad squatted. Studied the symbols.

Simeon scratched his head, which led to a streak of brain and blood through his hair. “So, this one a Ghalamarian or not?”

Bershad looked back at Rigar. Scanned his wounds. “You’re bleeding pretty bad, and you got a lot of jungle between here and home. If you brave the wilds, chances are you’ll wind up taking an ugly and painful trip down the river. You want it done clean, instead?”

He lifted his spear a little. Not in a threatening way, just to make it clear what was on offer.

Rigar looked at the spear point, then the clean hole in Acolyte 408’s head. Then he looked at the torn and shredded corpses that Simeon had created. Between the two, a clean death seemed preferable, but their next skyship extraction point was only ten leagues away. He could make it.

“I’ll take my chances with the jungle, if you’re offering the option.”

Bershad nodded. “I think this one’s Pargossian after all. They’re known for being stubborn bastards.”

Simeon sighed. “Your merciful nature is the most irritating thing about you, Silas.”

“Nobody’s ever told me that before,” said Bershad. “You sure you aren’t just a murderous bastard?”

“Might be a factor as well.” Simeon spat. Gave Rigar a long, hard look. Then he pointed east. “Go.”

Rigar crab-walked backward—hoping to get some space in case it was a trick—then got to his feet and started a stumbling walk. His ribs were screaming and his face was bleeding and he didn’t have any boots, but he didn’t care. He could make it.

“And Rigar?” Bershad called.

He turned around, sinking his shoulders and preparing for a spear to be hucked through his heart. But Bershad was still squatting on the ground—his blue tattoos a stark contrast against his skin in the morning light. He pointed up with one finger.

“Keep an eye on the skies. The dragons rule this jungle.”

Copyright © Brian Naslund 2021

Pre-order Fury of a Demon Here:

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Every Book Coming From Tor in Summer 2021

Summer is almost here and we’re so excited for warm weather, sunshine, and NEW BOOKS!!! Check out everything coming from Tor Books in summer 2021 here:

June 1

Image Place holder  of - 9The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and they sure do love to talk. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to those they left behind. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. Ropa will dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. And although underground Edinburgh hides a wealth of dark secrets, she also discovers an occult library, a magical mentor and some unexpected allies. Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

Placeholder of  -77Alien Day by Rick Wilber

Will Peter Holman rescue his sister Kait, or will she be the one to rescue him? Will Chloe Cary revive her acting career with the help of the princeling Treble, or will the insurgents take both their lives? Will Whistle or Twoclicks wind up in charge of Earth, and how will the Mother, who runs all of S’hudon, choose between them? And the most important question of all: who are the Old Ones that left all that technology behind for the S’hudonni . . . and what if they come back?

June 8

Poster Placeholder of - 36Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe

The Book of the New Sun is unanimously acclaimed as Gene Wolfe’s most remarkable work, hailed as “a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis” by Publishers Weekly.

June 22

Place holder  of - 17Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin. Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness.

June 29

Image Placeholder of - 92When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson

Here, in the last sanctuary for the dying embers of the human race in a world run by artificial intelligence, if you stray from the path – your life is forfeit. But when a Party propagandist is killed – and is discovered as a “machine” – he’s given a new mission: chaperone the widow, Lily, who has arrived to claim her husband’s remains. But when South sees that she, the first “machine” ever allowed into the country, bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife, he’s thrown into a maelstrom of betrayal, murder, and conspiracy that may bring down the Republic for good.

July 6

The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley

The Annurian Empire is disintegrating. The advantages it used for millennia have fallen to ruin. The ranks of the Kettral have been decimated from within, and the kenta gates, granting instantaneous travel across the vast lands of the empire, can no longer be used. In order to save the empire, one of the surviving Kettral must voyage beyond the edge of the known world through a land that warps and poisons all living things to find the nesting ground of the giant war hawks. Meanwhile, a monk turned con-artist may hold the secret to the kenta gates. But time is running out.

Joker Moon from George R. R. Martin

Theodorus was a dreamer. When the wild card virus touched him and transformed him into a monstrous snail centaur weighing several tons, his boyhood dreams seemed out of reach, but a Witherspoon is not so easily defeated. But now when he looked upward into the night sky, he saw more than just the moon . . . he saw a joker homeland, a refuge where the outcast children of the wild card could make a place of their own, safe from hate and harm. An impossible dream, some said. Others, alarmed by the prospect, brought all their power to bear to oppose him. Theodorus persisted . . .never dreaming that the Moon was already inhabited. And the Moon Maid did not want company.

July 13

The Freedom Race by Lucinda Roy

In the aftermath of a cataclysmic civil war known as the Sequel, ideological divisions among the states have hardened. In the Homestead Territories, an alliance of plantation-inspired holdings, Black labor is imported from the Cradle, and Biracial “Muleseeds” are bred. Raised in captivity on Planting 437, kitchen-seed Jellybean “Ji-ji” Lottermule knows there is only one way to escape. She must enter the annual Freedom Race as a runner. Ji-ji and her friends must exhume a survival story rooted in the collective memory of a kidnapped people and conjure the voices of the dead to light their way home.

The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan

The island nation of Servenza is a land of flint and steel, sail and gearwork, of gods both Dead and sleeping. It is a society where the wealthy few rule the impoverished many. Determined to change that, former street-rat Buc, along with Eld, the ex-soldier who has been her partner in crime-solving, have claimed seats on the board of the powerful Kanados Trading Company. Buc plans to destroy the nobility from within—which is much harder than she expected.

July 20

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes to stay hidden from her fate.

August 10

The Rookery by Deborah Hewitt

After discovering her magical ability to see people’s souls, Alice Wyndham only wants three things: to return to the Rookery, join the House Mielikki and master her magic, and find out who she really is. But when the secrets of Alice’s past threaten her plans, and the Rookery begins to crumble around her, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to save the city and people she loves.

Sword & Citadel by Gene Wolfe

Sword & Citadel brings together the final two books of the tetralogy in one volume: The Sword of the Lictor is the third volume in Wolfe’s remarkable epic, chronicling the odyssey of the wandering pilgrim called Severian, driven by a powerful and unfathomable destiny, as he carries out a dark mission far from his home. The Citadel of the Autarch brings The Book of the New Sun to its harrowing conclusion, as Severian clashes in a final reckoning with the dread Autarch, fulfilling an ancient prophecy that will forever alter the realm known as Urth

August 17

Neptune by Ben Bova

In the future, humanity has spread throughout the solar system, on planets and moons once visited only by robots or explored at a distance by far-voyaging spacecraft. Three years ago, Ilona Magyr’s father, Miklos, disappeared while exploring the seas of Neptune. Everyone believes he is dead—crushed, frozen, or boiled alive in Neptune’s turbulent seas. With legendary space explorer Derek Humbolt piloting her ship and planetary scientist Jan Meitner guiding the search, Ilona Magyr knows she will find her father—alive—on Neptune. Her plans are irrevocably altered when she and her team discover the wreckage of an alien ship deep in Neptune’s ocean, a discovery which changes humanity’s understanding of its future…and its past.

The Exiled Fleet by J. S. Dewes

The Sentinels narrowly escaped the collapsing edge of the Divide. They have mustered a few other surviving Sentinels, but with no engines they have no way to leave the edge of the universe before they starve. Adequin Rake has gathered a team to find the materials they’ll need to get everyone out. To do that they’re going to need new allies and evade a ruthless enemy. Some of them will not survive.

August 31

The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha

Maya has had a price on her head from the day she escaped the TechCorps. Genetically engineered for genius and trained for revolution, there’s only one thing she can’t do—forget. Gray has finally broken free of the Protectorate, but he can’t escape the time bomb in his head. His body is rejecting his modifications, and his months are numbered. When Maya’s team uncovers an operation trading in genetically enhanced children, she’ll do anything to stop them. Even risk falling back into the hands of the TechCorps. And Gray has found a purpose for his final days: keeping Maya safe.

Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund

The war against Osyrus Ward goes poorly for Bershad and Ashlyn. They are pinned in the Dainwood by monstrous alchemical creations and a relentless army of mercenaries, they are running out of options and allies. The Witch Queen struggles with her new powers, knowing that the secret of unlocking her dragon cord is key to stopping Ward’s army, she pushes forward with her experiments. Meanwhile, with every wound Bershad suffers, he gets closer to losing his humanity forever, and as the war rages, the exile turned assassin turned hero isn’t even sure if being human is something he wants.

September 7

You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

TwiceFar station is at the edge of the known universe, and that’s just how Niko Larson, former Admiral in the Grand Military of the Hive Mind, likes it. Retired and finally free of the continual war of conquest, Niko and the remnants of her former unit are content to spend the rest of their days working at the restaurant they built together, The Last Chance. But, some wars can’t ever be escaped, and unlike the Hive Mind, some enemies aren’t content to let old soldiers go. Niko and her crew are forced onto a sentient ship convinced that it is being stolen and must survive the machinations of a sadistic pirate king if they even hope to keep the dream of The Last Chance alive.

 

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Series We’re Saying Goodbye to in 2021

We’re saying hello to the year 2021, but a bittersweet goodbye to some of our favorite SFF series. Find out which ones are wrapping up in 2021 here.


Placeholder of  -79A Summoning of Demons by Cate Glass (Chimera series)

Catagna has been shaken to its core. In every street and market, the people of Catagna are railing against magic-users with a greater ferocity than ever before, and magic hunters are everywhere. Meanwhile, Romy has been dreaming. Every night, her dreams are increasingly vivid and disturbing. Every day, she struggles to understand the purpose of the Chimera’s most recent assignment from the Shadow Lord. As Romy and the others attempt to carry out their mission, they find themselves plunged into a mystery of corruption and murder, myth and magic, and a terrifying truth: the philosophists may have been right all along.

ON SALE NOW!

Image Place holder  of - 91Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne (The Memory War duology)

Karen Osborne continues her science fiction action and adventure series the Memory War with Engines of Oblivion, the sequel to Architects of Memory—the corporations running the galaxy are about to learn not everyone can be bought. Natalie Chan gained her corporate citizenship, but barely survived the battle for Tribulation. Now corporate has big plans for Natalie. Horrible plans. Locked away in Natalie’s missing memory is salvation for the last of an alien civilization and the humans they tried to exterminate. The corporation wants total control of both—or their deletion.

ON SALE NOW!

Image Placeholder of - 64A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (Teixcalaan duology)

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options. In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity. Their failure will guarantee millions of deaths in an endless war. Their success might prevent Teixcalaan’s destruction—and allow the empire to continue its rapacious expansion. Or it might create something far stranger . . .

ON SALE NOW!

Place holder  of - 31Breath by Breath by Morgan Llywelyn (Step by Step series)

The residents of Sycamore River have weathered the Change and the nuclear war it provoked. They emerge to try to build a life from the shattered remains of their town. But for some, the very air has become toxic. The people of Sycamore River have to survived the unthinkable. Can they build something new from the ashes?

ON SALE 4/13/21!

Poster Placeholder of - 9Fortress of Magi by Mirah Bolender

The Hive Mind has done the impossible—left its island prison. It’s a matter of time before Amicae falls, and Laura Kramer has very few resources left to prevent it. The council has tied her hands, and the gangs want her dead. Her only real choice is to walk away and leave the city to its fate.

ON SALE 4/20/21!

Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund (Dragons of Terra series

Brian Naslund’s epic Dragons of Terra series, beginning with Blood of an Exile, is perfect for comic book readers and fans of heroic fantasy. Action-packed and full of fast-paced adventures, the story follows Bershad, the most successful dragon slayer in history—he’s never lost a fight. But now he’s faced with a dangerous conundrum: kill a king or be killed.

ON SALE 8/31/21!

Invisible Sun by Charles Stross (Empire Games series)

A inter-timline coup d’état gone awry. A renegade British monarch on the run through the streets of Berlin. And robotic alien invaders from a distant timeline flood through a wormhole, wreaking havoc in the USA. Can disgraced worldwalker Rita and her intertemporal extraordaire agent of a mother neutralize the livewire contention between their respective timelines before it’s too late?

ON SALE 9/28/21!

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