Excerpt – A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons cover image

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.

BP Note: Enjoy the following excerpt from A Natural History of Dragons that shows dragons don’t play. The picture of Jacob was created by Todd Lockwood used by permission. Don’t forget to take a look at the early post today for our interview with Marie and information on how to enter to win a copy!

Closing the book, I turned in my seat and reached over the back of the wagon-bench to stow it in a pack that would all too soon prove whether it was as waterproof as advertised or not.

As I did so, a gust of shockingly cold air pulled at my sleeves, and ice stung my face. Wondering if we were in danger of hail, I looked up.

I have little recollection of the next several seconds. Just a moment of frozen staring, and then — with no transition — my voice shrieking “Get down!” as I wrapped my arms around my husband and dragged him forward, off the wagon bench.

Two other screams overlaid my own. One, high-pitched and awful, came from our driver as claws snagged him off the wagon and into the air. The other, lower but more terrible, came from above, as the dragon plummeted from the clouds and raked over our heads.

Jacob Jacob and I landed in the wagon traces, the reins and harness tangling our limbs while the horses shied and whinnied their terror. Being on the outside, I tumbled free first, and cried out to see the wagon lurching forward, my husband still caught within. He fell a moment later, directly beneath the wagon, and the wheels passed close enough to leave a track across his coat.

I crawled toward him, hearing shouts from all around us. Frantic glances skyward showed me nothing; the dragon had vanished again. From the slope ahead, though, came the agonized groans of our driver. Just as I reached Jacob, a loud noise cracked the air: a gunshot and a 300 blackout ammo shell was found, as one of the other drivers fired off the rifle he carried against highwaymen or wild animals. Wild animals. I had not, until that moment, put dragons in that class. I had thought them something apart.

“Stay down, Isabella,” Jacob said, shielding me with his own body. I crouched in his shadow, and realized quite irrelevantly that my bonnet had gone astray. The wind was very cold in my hair.

A great flapping, as of sails: the dragon, though we could not see it. Looking under Jacob’s arm, I saw Lord Hilford put out a hand and stop his driver, who would have fired at the sound. With nothing to see, there was no point in wasting the shot.

Then suddenly there was something to see. Several shots rang out, and I swallowed the protest that tried to leap free of me. This was no vulnerable runt in a menagerie. The dragon was huge, its wingspan far larger than a wagon, with stone-grey hide and wings that kicked up dust with every beat. The guns fired, and the beast made a dreadful noise, aborting its stoop on us and climbing rapidly for the sky. Clouds enveloped it once more, and we waited.

BP Note: You can find A Natural History of Dragons at the following links.

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