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Tuesday, 8 January 2013

20. Blaunch – Eleanor & the Dragon Runt

20. Blaunch – Eleanor & the Dragon Runt
Forgetting the usual bloggy rants we’re starting 2013 with a blaunch (blog book launch).
If you (or any 11 – 14 year-olds you know) are up for some quirky, fast-paced dragon fiction with time travel, peril, unconventional heroes, big dragon battles, romance (a bit) bravery (a lot), humour, inventiveness, engaging characters, revolting villains, bigger dragons, more battles, extraordinary creatures, time/universe-crossed relationships and a few more dragons, then Eleanor & the Dragon Runt is now available on Amazon. Buy in traditional format or download as an e-book.
N.B All the Eleanor books are published under pseudonym Adnam Arekab.
Having not done a blaunch before but happy to be missing out on sitting in libraries or book shops hoping someone will turn up, I’ll make it up as I go along. There are a couple of the fab illustrations (by artist Rosie Swan) in the photo bit of the profile section of this blog from the earlier Eleanor Chronicles and here is a totally random sample from the new book plus a little dragon skirmish from book 1 just for fun.
Part 8.
Cur Ogroo is Really Really Annoyed
Cur Ogroo’s spiteful fury was massively out of proportion to his injuries. After all he had been flying a dragon that was merely surprised when it felt the snag on its leg. A rudimentary weighted lasso and a simple wooden door were nothing to the brute. The tug on Cold Blood’s bulk only just registered. It was the sudden distraction that had caused him to fumble badly and as he was already flying very low this led to the unscheduled, bumpy and degrading crash on top of the innkeeper’s shed. Ogroo had been thrown clear. He was well-fleshed, and simply got bruised and a bit bashed about. What hurt was the humiliation, the disgrace, the discredit; he’d had a stomach full of that. Though obviously none would laugh openly at Ogroo, the paid thugs had been too busy sniggering at his clownish landing to give full energy to pursuing the stragglers who might have been caught. What peeved Cur Ogroo almost beyond endurance was the audacity, the cheek, the nerve. What truly grated was that as he turned to the direction he thought his would-be assassin had come from he saw a very small ragged child disappearing into the shadows. No warrior, no veteran of dragon battles, no giant of a man, no Time Strider, no lord, no Enquate with their strange abilities. No! A child. A small, ragged unarmed child. Ogroo was spitting. He was breaking things, he was raging and screaming. He was pulling at his thick oily hair. He was kicking (people and things), punching (things and people) and throwing stuff and using awfully bad language.
Through it all Zek sat at ease in a chair by the fire occasionally watching Ogroo out of one eye as if that were all he could spare. They had taken over the undamaged parts of the inn and Cold Blood was stomping round on the ruins of the barn while very nervous men were feeding it hastily slaughtered, still warm remains of cows and sheep. Cold Blood tore at the carcasses, ripping skin and bone and flesh with no more effort than a man would rip fresh bread. The men watched in fascinated horror. Most had never seen a dragon up close before and even those who had been in the ranks of Ogroo’s men for a while still found themselves drawn, with tingling in their bones, to the malevolence and barely contained power of the gigantic creature that was their master’s pet. The other two bull dragons were penned outside the town being fed and placated also.
“No resistance, says you,” bellowed Ogroo at Zek “and I am brought down before a single townsman is killed.” 
“A mishap.”
“The men were laughing at me.”
“They are easily amused.”
“If they laugh at me eventually they will not fear me.”
“It was just a boy,” Zek almost tutted. Ogroo was being such a great big whining lout.
“And that is supposed to make it better?” squeaked Cur incredulously.
“It was an unforeseen anomaly.” 
“Unforeseen? Then what is the point of you?”
“I said unforeseen not unforeseeable. Part of seeing is knowing what you are looking for.”
“Oh well that is alright then,” responded Cur with bitter sarcasm.
“The fact is we have taken the town. We have new lands, properties –“
“Most of them smashed and or burned –“
“By your men. There must be more discipline.”
“I didn’t hire them because they were polite. I don’t pay them to be refined.”
“The fact remains that we have done what we set out to achieve. Word will get back to Moreth and then we will have not just dragons and mercenaries but heightened fear, sharpened apprehension in our arsenal. Stop whining like a girl.”
For a moment Ogroo actually thought about picking up the bundle of rags and hurling him into the fire. He clenched his enormous fists and then bit the knuckles on his right hand. Self control was not his forte. As if he could read Ogroo’s thoughts, Zek looked from him to the fire and back again and gave what may have been a smirk. Ogroo stomped out of the room and Zek went to sleep.
And here’s a bit of a dragon scrap from book 1.
Part 7.

Eleanor Catherine - Time Strider - Dragon Slayer

Becomes the Hero of the Roaming Woods

...then there seemed no gap anymore between them, Eleanor and the dragon.
Eleanor was not certain if she voluntarily squeezed Tarn’s flanks but the brave animal was charging forward, head high. And so it was that before the dragons were even aware of Eleanor’s presence, she successfully scored Derf twice with her sword on the inside of his left leg. Tarn had carried her out of harm’s way into a thicket by the time the enraged creature let out its first fire blast. There was noise, confusion, stomping and crashing around. A small tree immediately to Eleanor’s right was trampled, it lurched alarmingly towards Eleanor but again Tarn bore her away before the heavy trunk hit the forest floor. Then there was pandemonium. In the confines of the trees, Gobbit twice blasted Derf with flames on the leading dragon’s haunches. Although scales mostly repelled the flames, the chaos increased, confusing the dragons. Eleanor, carried by Tarn, darted away, reappeared around the front of Derf, rushing in, slashing and escaping like a wood spirit. Derf stamped about unable to get the girl in his sights, trampling more trees and howling in pain and frustration. Gobbit urged Derf forward. The lead dragon turned, roaring at Gobbit thinking he was being attacked from behind. Seizing the opportunity, Eleanor scooted up onto her feet and was in a crouching position on Tarn’s back; it felt as if her feet were on solid ground. The graceful mare lowered its head and aimed for the gap between Derf’s front talons, slowing at the perfect moment. Eleanor, having sheathed her bloody sword, grasped two shorter knives from hip holsters and slashed at the more exposed inner flesh of the dragon’s legs. Derf reared up, blowing flames into the tops of the trees and he crashed down to earth just as Tarn veered to the left and out of the path of his massive feet.
“Evil wood spirit, forest ghost,” roared Derf. 
“Dragon maid you fool,” answered Gobbit, “go forward, go forward.”
Through the trees, a sure shot from Eleanor’s sling landed dead centre and hard on one of Derf’s front claws. Crack. The talon fractured. Then a second faultless aim. Smash. Derf staggered on damaged front legs. Eleanor knew that it was now or never for her next move. Coming at the bull dragon fast from behind while there was scarcely enough distance between Gobbit and Derf for her to do so, she slashed at both hind legs with her long sword. Just then the moon cleared and Gobbit got his first clear sight of the ghost Slayer. Sucking oxygen down into his massive lungs with a deep rumble, he let out a salvo of flame that set alight all the trees to right and left. Dragon flame lasts only seconds for each blast but is a fierce flame. Eleanor got her ceramic-faced shield up just in time but nevertheless was aware of a blistering heat on her left thigh. Tarn must have been scorched too, even with the ceramic protection but she did not waver, carrying Eleanor across the path between the two dragons, through the burning undergrowth and to the relative safety of denser trees. Eleanor was panting, gasping for breath and she was indirectly aware of the foul stench coming from the gore on her sword and knives. The dragons were still moving towards the glade, faster now. To stand any chance of success, Eleanor realised that she must finish with the first dragon before they cleared the trees. She must put the odds in her favour. She must do it now. For a precious moment Eleanor listened, judged. It was evident that the second dragon was trying to get past the first. Gently, quietly, Tarn moved back towards the path of the dragons. What stunned Eleanor more than the sheer size of the beasts in a clear shaft of moonlight was that they seemed if one listened carefully, to be talking. Yes! She was sure of it.
“I am hurt.”
“Kill maid.”
“Legs hurt.”
“Move, I cannot get past.”
“Turn back.”
“Must kill the dragon maid.”
“Why not kill easier meat.”
“Mortensa and Cold Bull will eat us if we fail. Move”
The first dragon must have stopped. Closer still, Eleanor could make out that the beast was half lying on its side trying to reach a wound in its hind leg. Eleanor dismounted soundlessly. She patted Tarn’s flank and the animal melted back a few feet. Eleanor breathed deeply three times and then raced forward, focused on the exposed underbelly of the first dragon. Eleanor was relying on its bulk to shield her from the second creature while she did what she had to do. As she ran she tossed her shield to her right hand and her sword to her left, catching each deftly and securely. Gobbit saw his adversary at the last instant as she sprang towards the floored beast. Gobbit roared flame at her. The flame that was not blocked by Derf’s exposed haunches, Eleanor avoided behind her shield. Comprehending his situation, Derf tried to right himself but he was too big and the space to cramped. Eleanor thrust her sword into the dragon’s underbelly maintaining a vice-like grip on the hilt. For the briefest time she seemed to hang from the sword. Eleanor pulled up her knees so that she was defended behind her shield as Gobbit shot out another blast of flame. Then she felt the sword move, it was the downward motion Eleanor had hoped for. Her weight was just enough to force the cutting blade to slice through the thick dragon hide. Derf roared and kicked with his damaged legs but Eleanor did not let go until the very last second when there was a danger of her being crushed by the flailing beast. Still with her shield in place, she braced her feet against the dragon’s flesh, slippery with gore. Then Eleanor stretched her long legs to lever out the blade. She jumped the remaining three feet, landing squarely on the forest floor. Eleanor was about to run for cover of the trees, any trees, when Tarn appeared at a gallop, eyes bulging in panic and swerving her flank towards Eleanor. Almost too late Eleanor understood what the horse was about. The second dragon was clambering over the carcass of the first and was almost upon them. At the initial attempt to mount, Eleanor nearly lost her footing in the slime that was now oozing over the forest floor. Tarn dipped down and Eleanor grasped the charcoal mane to steady herself and then she was on Tarn’s back racing through the trees with a mad bull dragon in hot pursuit – really hot pursuit. Eleanor held her shield to her back, gripping Tarn fiercely with her knees. She kept her head low so that the horse had only to judge its own height in avoiding branches and thick boughs and they accelerated away from the fire lizard. Eleanor and Tarn made it to the tree-less space brief seconds before the enraged monster. Tarn turned sharply at the far side of the clearing and Eleanor was facing the position where the beast would emerge. Quicker than an impulse, Eleanor had her bow in her hand fixed with an arrow. Then she was waiting. Eleanor breathed deeply to steady her arm. One beat, two beats, three… Tarn stood braced, steady as bedrock.  
Gobbit hesitated for just long enough in the unexpected space. Eleanor’s eye, arm, brain and nerve worked in the same instant and the first, second and third arrow went directly into the dragon’s nostrils, perhaps the only place where they could do any serious damage. A fourth glanced off a scale as Gobbit dipped his massive head sending out a spurt of flame but by then Eleanor was being carried away. The mare raced through the trees round the rim of the clearing breaking out again to the dragon’s side. Eleanor dismounted, as Tarn understood she must. The bow, which was of no more use, had been thrown down. Eleanor, holding her sword in her right hand and shield on her left forearm, stepped into the dragon’s direct vision. Eleanor sensed her blood had never pumped so hard or so fast. She felt she could fly. She was strong. No! She was invincible right then and she yelled,
“Know me dragon. Fear me. I am Eleanor Catherine and a Dragon Slayer.”
Eleanor laughed at the sound of her own words, the power of her life force sparking around her. For a stammer of time the dragon actually faltered. Then he remembered that he was a dragon. He was big. He had fire and this was just a maid, a maid who would soon be maid meat. Nevertheless, faced with the girl’s astounding bravery, it was not without misgiving that the bull dragon advanced to carry out Mortensa’s orders. Lowering his head a second time, Gobbit shot out the strongest flame he could muster. When the orange and black heat cleared the girl was nowhere to be seen, dead or alive. There was however, a searing pain inside his leg, then another just below that one. Gobbit reared up throwing his head back, shooting more flame and stomping about the clearing making the ground shake. More pain between his left hind talons. Eleanor’s sword was lodged in his back foot, sapphires from the hilt glinted like the eyes of a mad phantom but there was no sign of the girl. Then the blade of a knife with a leather-bound handle was driven into the underside of his tail, then another. Gobbit flailed uselessly, roaring and shooting futile flame. Something or someone was then on his back. Gobbit was demented with rage.
In the Wood Dwellers camp many of the women had gathered their children and fled. Others scampered up trees. The sounds were eerie and terrible, mutilated as they were by the thick forest growth. From where they were, it was possible to see the orange glow of flames, even smell them. It was fearful. Most assumed Eleanor was already dead.
Eleanor clambered up the dragon’s scaly back, legs set apart for balance and twice she nearly tumbled off. Finally, sweating and panting, the fearless girl reached the dragon’s neck. With feet planted on either side of the dragon’s lower skull, Eleanor bent down drawing the short knives from their hip holsters. With a victorious roar Eleanor drove the double-edged blades into the scale-less places behind each ear. She drove them in up to the hilts. She pulled them out and forced them in again. In its death throes, the dragon threw itself about. Eleanor was dislodged, tumbling down the side of the dragon’s flank where she hit the forest floor hard and was winded. The beast nearly rolled over on top of her but Eleanor was up before she realised what she was doing. Gobbit flung his head round trying to reach Eleanor with flame or talon. Suddenly, one front claw caught Eleanor’s cape and she was dragged forward with her arm twisted under her. From behind the dragon’s bulky head, Tarn appeared, reared up and crashed her hooves down onto the dragon’s cheek. Hooves sparked against the scales. Tarn galloped away and then back, mouth open. Eleanor was just able to get her free arm to her side where she released the double-headed axe. In pain now and breathing heavily from long exertion, Eleanor brought the axe down in the only soft place she could reach, Gobbit’s eye. Another ground shaking roar but the fire shot harmlessly into the trees. Sawing through the cloak straps with a short blade, Eleanor was finally able to escape from the claw that had snagged her. She ran to the rear of the still moving beast and dragged her sword from its foot, then she breathed deeply again, collecting her thoughts. Avoiding talons and flame, Eleanor raced to the dragon’s side bent low. At the perfect moment the moon bathed the glade in milky light. Eleanor had an unrestricted view of the dragon’s underside. Gobbit had a clear view of the maid as she flew towards him sword drawn, but too late. The final action of the battle was swift, precise and deadly. Eleanor’s sword penetrated deeply and accurately enough to slice the dragon’s mean heart exactly in two.
Linnks for the dragon books are in the side column to this blog marked 'Amanda's Books'.
Thanks for reading and Happy 2013

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