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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Debut Author Jeremy Higley and The Son of Dark

Debut author Jeremy Higley was born in California but now lives in Arizona. As of 2016 he’s a graduate student working on a master’s degree in English. He’s also an instructional aide at a local elementary school, a novelist, and a contributing editor for a nonprofit student success company called LifeBound.

Here’s what Jeremy has to say about The Son of Dark:

When I first started writing The Son of Dark I knew I would want a dragon, but I wanted him to be more powerful than your average dragon. Someone frightening enough to cow a countryside, but not in the cataclysmic force kind of way that is so common in dragons from Tolkien to Anne McCaffrey to Margaret Weiss. This wouldn’t be a dragon who spawned earthquakes and volcanoes, who left natural disasters in his wake. This dragon’s effect would be more akin to the horrors of a civil war mixed with a zombie apocalypse.

There was only one way to do that. I gave my dragon, the Wyvern, the ability to possess armies w of human beings with an enchanted song and control them completely. He would use those armies to build a castle and run a small city-state of his own within thick stone walls, perfectly cut off from the world. Any country seeking vengeance for the enslavement of their neighbors, friends, and family members would be forced to cut their way through those very people to get to the dragon himself.

The Wyvern would feel the pain of his thralls, but his response to the pain would be different from a human’s. Dragons are covered in scales, and don’t have hands to clamp down on bleeding wounds, or scratch at scabs. As the apex predator in their ecosystems, with no biological memory of ever being anything else, a dragon has a much less developed flight response, and is more likely to fight through pain than wince from it. The enslaved humans, similarly, would mostly ignore wounds. Pain would affect them, but it wouldn’t hold them back in the normal way. The dragon would eventually learn to take care of wounds in his thralls, and dispose of humans whose injuries were too severe to be anything but a hindrance to him. The dragon’s harsh efficiency would reflect his disdain for humans, who are easily replaceable and completely ignorant of his culture and ways.

There would be more inhuman aspects of the Wyvern-Held. Their gait would be awkward and clumsy, like a bird trying to walk without its wings. There would be no differentiation because of sex or age: only physical capacity. They would swarm like insects in response to the Wyvern’s direct control. They would ignore discomforts unique to humans, such as bites from insects, or the common cold. They would not speak to each other, and in fact hardly speak at all except as a mouthpiece for the Wyvern. Then they would speak all at once, in concert. Occasionally the Wyvern would force them to commit suicide in order to thin out weak humans or gain a strategic advantage.

The implications were all very disturbing, but they ended up pointing to a problem I would need to deal with as a writer. To maintain his numbers, the Wyvern would be forced to perform regular raids to pick up new “recruits” for his army. He would be a constant threat to the people around him, and he could never live too far away from people or his army would become too difficult to maintain. For a while the prospect of killing family members would be enough to keep the Wyvern’s enemies away, but not forever. Eventually a hardened group of rebels would decide to make the sacrifice no one else could, and the Wyvern’s army would lose its effectiveness as a shield.

The solution I came up with was to make a loophole in the spell. So long as there was one way to break the Wyvern’s enchantment, no matter how difficult or impractical, no one could bear to destroy the Wyvern-Held. The loophole would have to be something that inherently weakened his opponents, or the Wyvern would lose his soldiers too easily and gain new enemies at the same time. I decided to take the classic route, and require the sacrifice of one’s life for one’s loved one in order to break the curse.

That, I believe, is how you take the one most frightening aspect of a dragon, his fire, and replace it with something even more frightening. Give him a way to tear apart families, break up human society, and force eternal war on a people. Give him a way into our hearts and minds, a way to force our very natures to become alien and strange, like his. Give him the power to force us to become like him, and to turn against our own kind. That is a dragon whose psychological effect on humanity would be far worse than the hopelessness of facing a natural disaster. He doesn’t give us the half-comforting feeling that all is lost. Instead, he tempts us with the sacrifice we aren’t strong enough to make, in exchange for the victory we aren’t strong enough to stop hoping for. He embodies the impossible choice.


A thousand years ago, the wizards of the Nynsa  failed to follow the prophecy of the Darksome Thorn, and now the greatest evil of their time has survived into the next age. 

Now, the Darksome Thorn has revealed a new prophecy, and the very evil they failed to kill is working to use that prophecy to his advantage.

Forces of evil run rampant in the land of Duskain. Ancient powers are stirring. A greater darkness is imminent...

...and Skel, the foster son of an elephant herder, finds himself caught in the middle of everything. Will Skel's newly developing powers be a help or a hindrance...

EXCERPT from The Son of Dark:

A chorus of pounding footsteps interrupted their conversation. Wherever the Wyvern’s soldiers had been hiding, they were obviously not far away. Zar was about to explain what he was hearing to Morkin, but the Dracinfec was already on his way to the fireplace. As he walked,
Morkin emptied a vial of jelly-like fluid into his gloves and then slipped them back on. Zar realized what Morkin had in mind when he saw him plunging his gloved hands into the
burning fire. He quickly grabbed Marga’s chair and pulled her to the side of the room just before the soldiers began to enter.
They entered the room two-by-two, cantering in a strange, inhuman fashion as the Wyvern drove them onwards. They were a mismatched group. Different ages and races, though mostly Mra, and both sexes seemed to be equally represented. Despite these differences, they were all
well-muscled from years of forced drilling, wore ill-fitting woolen tunics and slippers, and shared a look of frustration and rage that was not their own. The pikes they carried were
long and had dull, rusty blades, but Zar didn’t doubt they’d be lethal.
As he drew his sword to get their attention, Morkin threw an armful of burning logs and cinders into the foremost rank’s faces. Another cloud of hot coals followed the first as Morkin finished emptying the fireplace, then began to climb up the hot stone sides of the wide chimney.
The troop of Wyvern-Held coughed, but there were no shouts of pain or confusion as the hot smoke billowed around them and filled the room with darkness. Though he could hear them moving around and searching, Zar couldn’t see the soldiers anymore. He struggled to stifle his own coughs as he picked up Marga and ran to the fireplace.
With the practiced speed of a sailor, he wrapped the rope three times around his wife’s body, securing her around her waist, back, and under her shoulders. He ended the lashing
in a knot a couple of feet above her. Now Morkin could pull her safely up the chimney shaft.
Thankfully she wasn’t a particularly tall woman, as otherwise Zar wasn’t sure she would have fit this way. He tugged twice on the rope to signal Morkin to start pulling, then held her above the still hot coals of the fireplace. The rope began to pull, drawing her up and out of his arms. Just
as he let go he heard, amidst the scuffle and commotion of the Wyvern-Held stumbling through the smoke and ash, the sound of one heading toward him.
Before he could draw his sword, a glassy-eyed woman with bulging biceps came upon him, nearly tripping over him in her haste. He knocked her down with a quick blow from his gauntleted hand, then grabbed her pike and held it lengthwise as he rushed the length of the room.
Two Wyvern-Held near him started to rise again. Since their wills were not their own, any pain and injury he inflicted would quickly be swallowed by the Wyvern.
Zar got up and headed to the chimney. He was running out of time. Hopefully Marga was safely out of the shaft and he could begin his ascent. He saw the end of the rope hanging into the fireplace and dove for it, only to be drawn back by the woman whose pike he had stolen. Somewhat stronger than he, she grappled him and held him to the floor.
Zar caught her off her guard with a head butt, followed by a knee to the stomach.
He pushed her off him with as much strength as he could muster, only to have her stumble after him. He clambered into the fireplace and began to climb the rope hand-overhand. She grabbed his foot. He made a desperate kick, cracking her hand against the hot stone wall of the shaft.
She released her hold.
A second Wyvern-Held pulled her aside. He entered the fireplace to stick his pike into Zar’s retreating rear. Zar was just far enough to avoid being impaled on the rusty blade.
The close confines and the darkness made a proper throw impossible. Finding handholds using the dim starlight in the shaft, Zar was soon on the rooftop and well out of reach.

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