The Astronomer is a short story set in the world of Dradonia.
It is three parts, the first of which takes place in the year 245 of the United Era, 165 years prior to the present narrative told in the Blessed of the Dragon series. Parts 2 and 3 take place about fifty years after part 1.
The story actually started out as three chapters in the upcoming third installment in the series, The Dragon King, but I decided the chapters didn’t fit in the narrative. The story is important, it just didn’t fit. I’ve told backstories in The Path of the Synthesizer and The Island of Kvorga (and am doing something similar in The Dragon King as well), but the difference is in these instances the stories told are told by people already in the narrative (Jax and Deanna). The astronomer, whose name is Vashon, and the Chancellor of the Northern Realm (at the time), Drashon, are not actually in the present narrative, so giving them POV chapters seemed out of place to me, so I cut them. I still want the reader to know what happened, so instead of deleting the chapters altogether, I’m presenting them to you as a separate story, sort of a companion piece to The Dragon King.
Part 1 of the 3 part series is below. To read the rest of the story you’ll have to buy The Dragon King when it comes out in July. 😏 The whole story will be published in the back of the book.
Until then, happy reading!
245 United Era
Drashon’s Auto came to a halt and the humming of its motor ceased. The weeklong journey from Tieger to Kyinth was finally over. Travel weary, he looked out the darkened window at the emperor’s looming palace. He craned his neck, just able to make out the balcony high above.
While he waited for a guard to descend the palace steps, he reflected on the message from the emperor that arrived by condor seven days ago. He still had no clue what the emperor felt was so urgent that he needed to discuss it in person. It’s not like he just sat around all day charging dragon bones for more important people. He was the Chancellor of the Northern Realm. He was more important. And he was very busy.
He removed the timepiece from his coat pocket and flipped the lid open. After checking the time, he opened the small latch on the back of the timepiece, revealing the sliver of black bone. He drew Energy into his Core from a bone inlaid in the armrest of the door and transferred it into the tiny bone, replenishing the power that kept the timepiece running. He closed the latch and tucked the timepiece back into his coat.
Guards finally emerge from the palace and start down the marble steps.
The guards reached the bottom of the grand steps and arranged themselves outside the Auto in two long rows. The gilded sheaths hanging at their hips shimmered in the sun, as did their gray armor. The captain of the guard, identified by the white scale covering the left breast of his armor, walked through the two rows of guards and opened the door. “Chancellor,” the captain said with a bow. “His Blessed Highness is awaiting your audience.”
Drashon once again removed the timepiece from his coat, flipped it open, and gazed at the time. He flipped the piece closed, returned it to its place, and stepped out of the Auto. Ignoring the captain’s bow, he hastily made his way up the steps. The captain rushed to catch up to him and took his place at Drashon’s side. The rest of the guard trailed behind in two uniform rows.
“How are things, cousin?” the captain said.
Drashon looked tersely in the captain’s direction. He wasn’t interested in engaging a cousin so far removed he’d have to refer to the official annals to determine their exact relation.
He entered the palace, briefly taking in the grandeur of the enormous atrium as he walked around the gilded statue of his father. He crossed the atrium with long strides and made his way down the Hall of Relics, directly opposite the entrance. The hallway was uniquely adorned with tapestries reflecting the various cultures under the collective rule of the empire. As he proceeded, he passed relic upon relic on display at interval, all of them protected behind glass casings. The halls were open to the populace, so it was necessary to safeguard against thievery—though he couldn’t fathom who would be audacious enough to steal from the emperor.
Drashon paused halfway down the hall at a display case that routinely drew his attention. He looked through the thick glass at the crown and armor of the previous ruler: The Dragon King. His grandfather. The gold crown was fashioned in the shape of a dragon. The front was a dragon’s head turned upwards, about the height of a hand. Flames spewed upwards from its mouth, doubling its total height. The dragon’s long neck curved down and around, its body wrapping around in a circle, forming the crown. The front legs and claws were situated so that they would extend down over the left ear of whoever wore the crown and the back legs over the right ear. The tail continued around and joined the dragon’s upturned neck, finishing off the body of the crown. Intricately carved scales covered the body and individual teeth were visible in the dragon’s open mouth. The claws were razor-sharp and looked as though they would slice open the scalp if not placed carefully on the head.
The armor had a dragon emblem on the left breast. It was golden in color, fashioned from the skin of the rarest variety of dragon. As far as he knew, there had only been one yellow dragon. Each of the scales that fashioned this intricate suit shimmered in the light. Anyone wearing this work of art would be truly regal.
“I always thought the crown looked odd without wings,” the captain of the guard said.
“Yes,” Drashon answered, not taking his eyes off the display. “The design was flawed. Just like the man who wore it.”
“Chancellor,” the captain said, “I wish we could stand here and discuss the Dragon King’s character, but we really must continue. We mustn’t keep the emperor waiting.”
Drashon turned from the display and followed the captain down the hall. They turned left at the throne room’s gilded doors, down to another door at the end of another short hall. He impatiently waited while the guards searched him for dragon bones. They found his timepiece and took it from him. Whatever they thought he could do with such a tiny bone he didn’t know. But he was used to it and didn’t argue. Then, he followed the captain into the small room with a metal door on the opposite side. The captain pushed the button next to the door. When the door slid open, Drashon stepped into the Lift. The captain followed him in and pushed the button on the inside. The Lift rose quickly, taking Drashon to his father’s personal chamber. Thankfully, the captain didn’t try to engage him in further banter.
The door slid open and he stepped into the emperor’s quarters. He didn’t bother searching the chamber but rather, he walked briskly past the pair of spiral staircases leading up to the emperor’s bedroom and out to the balcony. He knew where his father would be. He found him standing by the railing looking west, toward the setting sun. Drashon walked over to him and knelt, saying, “I’ve arrived, Your Blessed Highness.”
The emperor did not respond.
Drashon stood back up and joined his father. He looked over at the emperor, who still didn’t acknowledge him. Instead, he stared straight ahead, off into the distance, at the sun. He wondered what his father’s urgency was since now that he was here, he didn’t seem to be in a rush to speak. He didn’t want to be impertinent, so he waited.
Drashon shielded his eyes from the setting sun so he could see the city below. It was humming with activity. The streets were rivers flowing with Autos of many different sizes. Trains and Autos were his ideas. Even after more than two hundred years, no achievement had benefited the empire more than Trains and Autos did. It was his to claim. They quickly became integral to the Regency’s ability to govern efficiently. Both connected the empire like never before.
“I’ve made a terrible mistake,” Drakonias finally said.
Drashon turned from the river of motorized transportation to his father standing beside him. He was surprised to hear him speak in such a manner. The emperor was still staring directly ahead, not even shielding his eyes from the brightness of the setting sun. When had his father ever admitted being wrong about something? “Mistake?” he said, tentatively.
“Something’s happening that I don’t understand.”
“What do you mean?”
“For a while now, I’ve been plagued by this feeling that something wasn’t right. I’ve had this… itch. But I could never place my finger on it,” Drakonias said. “And then… I finally realized what it was.”
Drashon waited patiently for Drakonias to explain himself. However, his father still didn’t seem to be in much of a rush. He just stood there, hands clasped behind his back, staring at the sun. He wanted to draw some of the warmth in to burn away his travel weariness, but he didn’t dare Synthesize in his father’s presence.
When the sun dipped below the horizon, Drakonias lifted a dragon-shaped bone off a stack of parchment sitting on the marble railing. He handed the top piece to Drashon and set the bone back on the remaining piece.
Drashon read it eagerly. But the further he got the more his eagerness changed to fear and dread.
“What is this? I mean, I know what it is, but I don’t understand why.”
He didn’t have to understand, he knew all he had to do was obey. But this… this demanded an explanation.
“The war did something to the sun,” Drakonias said, still staring at the horizon.
“What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know, but it’s changing.”
“What do you mean?”
“We must have done something to it.”
Drashon looked the parchment over again. “So you’re banning astronomy?”
“And ordering the execution of all astronomers?” Drashon again looked at the parchment. He wanted to make sure he’d read it correctly. “And their families?”
“And anyone known to be associated with them: friends, priests, it doesn’t matter.”
“But why?” Drashon said. He was being borderline impertinent, but he didn’t care. What the emperor was suggesting… no commanding… was the execution of hundreds, if not thousands of people. And he wanted him to be in charge of it. Draego’s Fire… if he was going to do this he was going to know why.
“Because news of this cannot spread.”
“News of what? That’s what I don’t understand.”
Drakonias finally turned to look and him and tersely said, “Neither do I.” He turned back toward the horizon. “But if anyone will, they will.”
“So you want me to kill them? All of them?”
“Not all of them.” Drakonias retrieved the second piece of parchment and handed it to Drashon. He gave Drashon time to read it, then said, “I need you to find out what’s happening.”