This is the first chapter of The Book of Immortality, a novel I’ve been working on since November of 2017. It’s my first serial on this blog! I’m excited to finally be posting it for everyone to see.
It was early morning in the forest north of Resuni. The sky was gray, the shadows were deep, and the sun would not rise for another half hour. It would be hard for any human to see anything in the forest due to the shadows cast by the trees, but Lisel’s sharp elven eyesight let her make out the shapes of the three human guards. The three of them were doing their best to keep themselves hidden, but from time to time, one of them straightened up to look for any sign of movement. Lisel doubted that they realized they were making themselves visible to anything or anyone with better-than-human hearing and sight.
Lisel rolled the spell arrows around in her hand. The paper on them audibly crinkled, and she froze, regretting the action immediately. Before she could start thinking on it, one of the guards, a man named Wing, pointed into the trees ahead.
“See that?” he said, waving his hand toward his neighboring guard, Shen.
“Is it him?” Shen asked.
Lisel very dearly wanted to slap them both. “Keep your voice down,” she hissed under her breath.
A deer walked into Lisel’s line of vision. Thankfully, it somehow hadn’t noticed any of them. Lisel looked into the trees where it came from. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness on that side of the mountain, she saw something else move. The shape was humanoid, but it was still too far away – and too deep into the shadows – for her to distinguish just what it was.
Lisel focused harder on the shape, and after a few seconds, it became clearer – a tall man with a bow and arrow in his hands, crouched down in the bushes and staring intently at the deer. It appeared that he hasn’t noticed her or any of the other guards. After a few more seconds, Lisel’s eyes adjusted to the darkness enough that she saw that his eyes were a bright color that did not occur in humans. When she saw the reflective glint of the tapetum lucidum, she knew that she was looking at the right person – the dragon.
“That’s him,” Lisel whispered. She motioned at Shen to get his attention and gave him the signal. He stared at her for a moment. Then his eyes widened, he turned away from Lisel, and nocked a spell arrow to his bow and aimed at the dragon.
Lisel gave Shen another hand signal. Fortunately, he immediately understood this one and let loose of the arrow.
The dragon reached up and caught the arrow when it was just a few inches from his face, not even taking his eyes off the deer. The deer had definitely noticed that something was going on – it had straightened up and was looking around, likely preparing to run away.
The dragon took his eyes off the deer to look at the spell wrapped around the arrow. “Where are you?” he asked after a moment, his eyes still on the arrow. This startled the deer into running off. “Come out so we can talk like civilized people.”
An arrow hit the tree above his head. The dragon ducked down out of view, and Lisel made a mental note to write a curse for whoever shot that arrow without her permission.
“Is that how it’s going to be?” said the dragon. His voice was even, but Lisel still detected an edge of irritation underneath it. “No words? You’re actually going to just shoot me?”
The dragon reached up and yanked the arrow out of the tree, hard enough that the arrowhead remained embedded in the wood. “You’re wasting your spells,” he said, looking down at the spell wrapped around the arrow. “Is that really such a good idea?”
The bushes in front of the dragon rustled, and Lisel’s heart sank a little. The dragon noticed immediately, and tossed away the arrow lacking the arrowhead. He nocked the other spell arrow to his bow and took a step back.
Trung – the third guard, the one that Lisel hadn’t been able to keep an eye on – suddenly burst out of the underbrush in front of the dragon. The dragon gave no sign of being startled and immediately fired the arrow into Trung’s throat. Trung fell to the ground, dropping his bow and clutching at his neck.
Wing picked that exact moment to run out from behind a tree and at the dragon, dao drawn in front of him. Lisel specifically remembered telling soldiers, including Wing, not to do this. It was so easy to fall on your own sword and disembowel yourself.
The dragon easily evaded Wing’s swipes. “What are you trying to do?” he said. He kicked Wing in the chest, sending the soldier tumbling backward and down the hill. Lisel watched Wing drop his dao upon smacking his head into a tree.
Surprisingly, Wing stood up. He put his hands up in a defensive gesture as the dragon aimed at him. “Wait! Don’t shoot!” he said.
Lisel had absolutely no idea what Wing was trying to accomplish. But the opportunity this gave her was too good to waste, so she started muttering the invisibility spell under her breath.
Queen of Air and Darkness, lend me your magic for just a moment.
The dragon looked confused and disgusted at the same time. “Don’t shoot?” he said. “You’re trying to kill me!”
Lisel reappeared behind him. She used her free hand to grab his left arm, which he jerked upward in an attempt to shake her off. That was exactly what Lisel wanted, and she jammed the spell arrow in her other hand into his forearm. While he was still trying to figure out what was going on, she kicked the back of his knees, causing him to fall to the ground.
The dragon dropped his bow. The arrow flew off into the trees, thankfully not toward anyone. Apparently Lisel kicked him too hard, as he started tumbling down the mountain toward Wing, who jumped out of the way with a comically startled squawk.
Lisel took her rifle into her hands as she walked down the hill toward the two of them. It was loaded, of course, but like all rifles, it only held a single shot. She didn’t want to use it. It would make everyone’s lives much harder if they had to find another dragon. But if he was going to continue fighting, then she’d have to shoot him.
Wing pointed his dao at the dragon, who appeared to be ignoring the soldier. The dragon slowly got to his feet, brushing leaves and dirt off his beizi.
“Don’t move,” said Wing.
The dragon pulled the arrow out of his arm and snapped it in half. He started reaching for the knife in his belt, but Lisel was quicker. She stepped forward, pointed her rifle in his face and pushed the bolt forward.
“Put your hands behind your head, Sirilrhis,” said Lisel. She angled her head to look at Wing out of the corner of her eye. “Wing, take his knife and any other weapons he’s carrying.”
Wing took the knife from Sirilrhis’s belt and patted down his beizi. “He’s just got the knife,” Wing said.
Sirilrhis, meanwhile, stared at Lisel with a frown on his face, looking like he had no idea what was going on or who she was. “Go pick up his bow, Wing,” said Lisel. “And go make sure Trung’s alive! He’ll need a doctor immediately if he is.”
Lisel took her eyes off Sirilrhis for a moment to watch Wing as he walked off. When she returned her attention to Sirilrhis, he was still standing there with that same frown on his face. “I didn’t realize there was an elf here,” he said slowly. “Let alone an elf that can use that level of elemental magic.”
“All of us can do that to some extent,” said Lisel. “Now-”
“Is this because I didn’t renew my hunting permit?” Sirilrhis asked.
“What?” said Lisel, a little taken aback. “No. Come along. I’m taking you back to Resuni.” She pressed her hand into the small of his back and pushed him forward to get him walking, keeping her rifle trained on him the whole time.
“Can I at least put my hands down?” Sirilrhis asked.
“Go ahead. Just don’t do anything suspicious,” Lisel replied.
Sirilrhis immediately started rubbing his right forearm. Lisel snuck a glance at it, and saw that the spell had been successful. The ink was already starting to curl into calligraphy. One less thing to worry about.
The three guards stood in a small clearing at the base of the mountain. Trung, somehow, looked fine aside from the bandage wrapped around his neck.
“Will you be able to get back to the barracks?” Lisel asked.
Trung nodded. “I don’t think he can speak right now, but he actually looks fine,” said Shen.
“I’ll trust the three of you to get back on your own, then. Try not to take too long. I’m taking the dragon back to HQ,” said Lisel. She turned to Sirilrhis and waved forward. “Start walking again.”
Sirilrhis looked affronted for a moment. Then his shoulders slumped and he sighed. “I got it, I got it.”
The sun had risen high enough in the sky that sunlight streamed over the trees, illuminating the fields and farms around Resuni. Those farms stretched on for miles around the outskirts of the city, and their farmers were already awake and tending to their fields.
One of the farmers stood up as Lisel and Sirilrhis walked past. “Hey, soldier, what’s going on?” he yelled to Lisel.
Lisel tilted her head to yell back at him. “Official military business! I’m not allowed to talk about it.”
Sirilrhis looked annoyed. “I’d like to know what’s going on,” he said.
“You’ll learn in a couple of hours. Now shut up and walk,” said Lisel.
The Rebel Military Headquarters were at the very edge of the walled city of Resuni. Before the civil war, it had been a former Imperial military base that housed close to a hundred soldiers. Now it housed some of the Rebel defectors. A couple of soldiers were out and about; some of them tending to the horses and some just standing around not doing anything useful.
One of the soldiers noticed Lisel. Much to her displeasure, he loudly started notifying the others. “Hey, Tsensung’s back with the dragon!” he yells back at the other soldiers. He then sharply looked back at her, his brows furrowed. “Wait, where are the others? Trung, Shen, Wing?”
Lisel didn’t bother looking at the soldiers as she walked past them. Sirilrhis, on the other hand, stared right at them. “They’re coming,” she said. “Trung needs medical attention. He was shot in the throat.”
“What? This dragon did it?” said the soldier.
“I guess he really didn’t want to cooperate,” said another soldier.
Lisel ignored their comments and continued walking down the path. There was a stable to the right side of the road; a soldier led a horse out of it. The horse started fidgeting when Lisel and Sirilrhis got closer, and the soldier pulled on the reins to try and get it out of the road. Other horses had the same sort of reaction as the two of them walked past; every single one of them eyed Sirilrhis. Lisel didn’t know if the horses could smell the difference between dragons and humans or elves, or if there was something else alerting them to the fact that Sirilrhis was dangerous.
When they got to the entrance of the Military Headquarters, Lisel put her hand out to pull the door open. She didn’t get a chance, as the door suddenly and violently opened in front of her. Lisel jerked her hand back, but the door handle still managed to slam into her fingers.
Remiya Kiyohu, the acting Commander of the Rebel Miltiary, stood in front of her. She was a human woman, a couple of years older than Lisel, and only slightly shorter. Lisel hadn’t known her back when they were both part of the Imperial Military.
“Commander!” Lisel said, rubbing her fingers. “I’ve brought back the dragon. Sirilrhis.”
Commander Kiyohu looked up at Sirilrhis, who stared back with a blank expression on his face. Kiyohu looked down at his forearm and smiled. Sirilrhis, now looking annoyed, pulled his sleeve down to his wrist.
“You’re dismissed, Lisel!” said Kiyohu. “Report back here at noon so we can have our meeting. I’m sure we’ll have lots to discuss then.”
“I’m bringing Suli,” said Lisel. “I’m sure everyone else is going to be there, too?”
“Of course!” says Kiyohu. She seemed to be almost entirely distracted by the dragon, and was still smiling when Lisel walked off. Lisel managed to catch some of what Kiyohu said before she shut the door. “I’m sure you have lots of questions. To begin, we…”