Prologue: The Dragon Scale Lute
the echo of the Dragon Scale Lute fading around him,Avarax coiled his hind legs and vaulted skyward. He stretched out
his wings to catch an updraft. Cool wind
caressed his scales. After three hundred
years imprisoned in the pathetic body of a human, it felt good to be a dragon
Down below in the sparkling city of domes and spires and canals, thousands of bronze-skinned humans pointed at him and screamed. The world thought he had slumbered for a millennium, telling stories about how a honey-toned slave girl sang him to sleep. He had let them believe that tale, to prevent enemies from tracking him down.
He belched sparks with his laugh. Now, it was time to announce his return, with one puff of his fiery breath. It would immolate a million people, the city and the artifact which could again force his unwilling transformation. He filled his lungs with a deep breath and exhaled in an ear-splitting roar.
Not even sparks. Avarax’s breath remained locked away. He wrapped his consciousness around the gemstone in his gullet, a dragon’s source of almost infinite energy. Its pulsations pounded like an angry river up against a dam.
The Dragon Scale Lute’s strings moaned again, vibrating in answer to his roar. Its wail swelled, scattering the pitiful humans like a disturbed rat nest. Then, with a disjointed pop, the sound ceased.