Drakon Book I

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Drakon Book I: The Sieve

“The Sieve” is Book I of the epic fantasy novel Drakon.

“I am here to redeem the lives of my wife and daughter. I’ve brought the offering.”
Da-Ren, an infidel barbarian, arrives at the Castlemonastery, his only offering a jar of honey. Baagh, the Cross Sorcerer, follows him there under orders of the Emperor, demanding from the monks to transcribe the warrior’s story.
Book I chronicles Da-Ren’s early years, growing up in a tribe of archer riders and pagan witches, camped north of the Blackvein River. He enters the Sieve, the forty-day initiation trial that determines the fate of every boy and girl. Many of his comrades will fall, the strong will join the warriors, and an elite few will be marked for leadership. Da-Ren learns to endure the elements, to obey the Truths, to keep standing when all hope is lost. He swallows the legends of the Ouna-Ma witches, learns to hate all other tribes, and conquers fear. 
And yet there is one trial that will bring him to his knees. The Goddess’s favorite daughter. “Brown-haired, brown-eyed. Brown was the first color of the day.”
The journey begins for the man who will become the First Blade of the Devil. 
A brutal, poetic, first-person narrative of war, death, and love.

Chapter 1

 Jar of Honey “I am here to redeem the lives of my wife and
daughter. I’ve brought the offering.” Those were the first words of Da-Ren, the
man who would become my brother, hero, nightmare, savior, and my life’s only
story. He knelt and offered me an earthenware jar. Only moments earlier, he had
crashed through the main cedar gate of our monastery, hurling his body against
it. He had the eyes of an infidel, one whom God had not allowed to sleep for
many nights. No one like him had ever set foot on our remote island of Hieros
in the middle of the sky-blue sea.

Many a disheartened soul had climbed the thirty-eight and
thousand more steps that led to the Castlemonastery. They came proud and strong
on fast-moving triremes; they came humble and desperate on wave-ravaged fishing
boats. They moored their vessels, whether great or small, in the eastern harbor
and ascended to seek mercy or plead for a miracle. Cure for the incurable.
Resurrection. Eternal life. God’s kingdom is so often misinterpreted by the
desperate. Almost all descended the same steps one or two days later, some
swiftly with wings of hope lifting their heels, others slowly with the look of
a doom foretold in their eyes. And then there were those few who stayed at the
monastery for a long time. They had found the strength to climb up but had lost
what little was needed to climb down again.

On the day Da-Ren arrived, I was the novice monk in charge
of the cleaning chores. I was airing the First Elder’s chamber to rid it of the
stench of the linseed-oil-burning lamps. A flash of movement caught my eye, and
I looked out of the window through the spider web clinging to the limestone
wall and the wooden shutters. A penteconter was slicing through the calm blue
waters like a giant serpent, approaching the harbor’s entrance. It was not a
pirate ship; the swan carved on its stern was the mark of a merchant
fifty-oared vessel. A hide-clad man jumped into the sea with his boots still on
before the ship was even moored. I clutched the wooden cross hanging around my
neck. The man came ashore holding what looked like a jar with both hands above
water, making his way across the razor-edged rocks. Biting my lower lip, I
waited to see how many of his crewmates would follow. But none did. The man
clambered over the salt-eaten stones without ever looking back.

I had counted several times, in the middle of a quiet day,
how quickly someone could climb the narrow steps that led to our monastery. The
young fisherman who often brought us fresh mackerel could climb the slippery
steps barefoot before I counted five times a hundred. The barbarian was at the
southwest bend, more than halfway from the shore, and I hadn’t even reached
twice a hundred. As he approached, I could see the cross-shaped hilt of his
sword, tied to his back. He was undoubtedly a man of the blade. One barbarian
alone was enough to massacre the few aging monks of our commune, just as the
searing wind had ravaged the last yellow flowers of spring. This season full of
earthly smells, the onset of summer, is often deceiving, for it is a season of
raid and slaughter, the one that pirates choose to rip through both seas and
virgins. Only one thing about this barbarian gave me the slightest bit of hope:
the jar he carried with both hands as gently as if it were an infant.

I descended the coiled stone staircase from the second floor
of the main building, with my long robe slowing my progress, and entered the
courtyard. “The gate, shut the gate,” I shouted. My brothers were breaking
their fast in the dining hall after the Morning Prayer, and the only one in the
courtyard was deaf Elder Marcus, weeding the vegetable garden……

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C.A. Caskabel