Wolf Dasher is back, and this time, the stakes are even bigger!
The Red Dragon Project is the ultimate weapon — five women who can transform themselves into mighty dragons. Not only can they soar over armies and use their fiery breath to devastate opposing forces, they can sneak behind enemy lines before metamorphosing and catch enemies unaware.
But on its first test mission, the Red Dragon Project is sabotaged. Three Dragons are killed, one is severely injured, and, worst, one goes missing. Only Wolf Dasher of Her Majesty’s Shadow Service knows who is really behind the attack: The Sons of Frey, a sinister terrorist organization dedicated to overthrowing Alfar’s government in the name of religious purity.
Wolf’s out of favor, though. A blown mission and his love affair with Alfar’s Captain of the Elite Guard, May Honeyflower, have irked the conservative faction of the coalition government and made him a liability to his own people. Currently serving a month-long suspension, he’s in no position to pursue his suspicions.
There’s only one solution: a dangerous, unofficial mission that carries Wolf across the border into neighboring Jifan, a nation of elves that hates humans like Wolf. He’ll have to go alone, and if anything goes wrong, no one will come to help.
May isn’t about to abandon her love, though. When Wolf disappears and is presumed dead, she resolves to go after him, leaving her post and recruiting imprisoned radicals to help her.
Now, Wolf and May find themselves in a race against time. Wolf must track down the missing Red Dragon before the Jifani-sponsored Sons of Frey unleash an apocalypse on Alfar. May must locate Wolf before the Sons of Frey discover him. If either of them fails, Alfar is doomed.
A story of love and family, of betrayal and revenge, Red Dragon Five is a tale of two people fighting the odds to be together in a world determined to tear itself — and them — apart. Politics, religion, action, and romance come together to create a page-turner you won’t be able to put down. Read it as a standalone novel or as a companion to Wolf’s first adventure, State of Grace.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
In Wolf’s second adventure, I wanted to spend some time developing the characters. The first novel in a series demands you establish the setting and the principals’ roles in it. for my second book, I got more inside their hearts and their heads. Red Dragon Five is an espionage thriller, but it is also very much a love story. We get to see who Wolf Dasher and May Honeyflower are, why they are drawn to each other, and what it means for two people in such a dangerous business to be in a relationship. There’s a lot of depth in this novel.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Wolf and May were already established in the previous book, State of Grace. As I began delving deeper into their world, I created some new characters who have become recurrent in the series. May’s father has a cameo in this book that foreshadows his importance to her personally, Radical firebrand Aqib Dragonblade makes his first appearance here, symbolizing the angry rhetoric that leads to insurgents’ violence, and Celindra Gldheart is a priest who uses her position in the pulpit to sow hatred and organize an army. There are a lot of characters reflective of the dysfunctional situation in the Middle East and here in the U.S.
Wolf Dasher crouched in darkness, relying on his special power to keep him hidden. So long as he stayed within the shadow and didn’t move, he was completely invisible.
He knelt in a corridor in what he believed was the command center of the secret base he’d discovered deep within the rotting forest just east of Al-Adan. He’d tailed an armed group of elves here and snuck inside without being seen. As he caught his breath, he assessed his situation and tried to figure out what to do next.
He was in a tower. He’d come in through a window about thirty feet up. To his left, the hallway went about ten feet before ending in a staircase that led down. To his right, also about ten feet away, was a closed door. There was no cover aside from the shadow that concealed him.
He was about to move to the door when he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Instinctively, he leaned back against the wall, trying to make himself as small as possible. As the new arrival reached the top of the stairs, Wolf held his breath.
A tall elf dressed in grey robes and a blue cloak came striding down the hall so purposefully Wolf thought the door might try to move closer just to accommodate him. He carried a staff that was carved with clouds and lightning bolts in one hand, and a smooth, wooden case in the other. Like nearly every elf Wolf had seen since he first came to Alfar seven months ago, this one was fiercely beautiful. He had perfect skin the color of dark chocolate, sea-green eyes that shone like a pair of stars, and a greying goatee. His hair was cut short. He looked both regal and dangerous at once.
He swept by Wolf, moving so close his cloak brushed Wolf as he passed. He went to the door, opened it, and entered without breaking stride. A moment later, it shut softly behind him.
Wolf didn’t waste any time. He stole to the door and peeked through the keyhole.
He could just make out three individuals. The elf in the cloak was taller than the other two. The second was broad-shouldered. The third was thin and looked sickly to Wolf.
He put his ear to the keyhole, to see if he could make out what they were saying. The conversation was muffled, but he was able to get it. To his surprise, they spoke his native Urlish instead of Elfin.
“Greeteenks, Dr. Teargarden,” one of them said in what was obviously a Phrygian accent.
“Hello, Comrade Anderov,” came the reply.
Wolf’s heart started racing. The accent and name could mean only one thing: the Sons of Frey once again were working with Urland’s sworn enemy, Phrygia. No doubt they were hoping to assist the terrorists in destabilizing Alfar’s shaky coalition government so as to gain an advantage in the cold war they waged with Urland.
But Wolf was as stunned by the name of the elf who had just passed him. Dr. Teargarden could only be Hassam Teargarden, the Sons of Frey’s director of operations. He was thought to be responsible for many of the terrorist organization’s missions, and Wolf had been trying to track him down for months. Finding him here meeting with a Phrygian agent was both disturbing and fortuitous.
“Do you have it?” the third person said. His voice was strong despite his frail appearance.
“Yes, right here,” Teargarden replied.
Wolf peeked through the keyhole again. Teargarden handed the case to the third person. After taking it, he turned it on its side and opened it. He inspected the contents and then closed it again before setting it on a table. Wolf put his ear back to the door.
“And you, Mr. Anderov?” the third individual said.
“My controller eenforms me our man has successfully eenfiltrated the program,” Anderov replied. “Everytheenk proceeds as planned.”
“And what do we hear from our agent who provided the elixir,” the third person asked.
“There have been no changes to the schedule,” Teargarden answered. “Everything remains as we have been told.”
“Then you should return to Allamabad,” the third individual said. “Consider the operation a go.”
“As you wish,” Teargarden said.
“But first you should have some dinner and rest. Stay with us tonight. You can leave first thing in the morning.”
“Thank you, Mustique,” Teargarden said. “I would enjoy that.”
Mustique? The third person was Mustique Starfellow, the alleged head of the Sons of Frey? Wolf nearly swore out loud. The two most-wanted terrorists in all of Alfar were on the other side of the door, and they were talking to a Phrygian agent! Blood and bones, he was listening in on the final planning stages of a Sons of Frey operation. But what was it?
He heard a door shut. He looked through the keyhole again and discovered the room was empty, but the case was still sitting on the table. They’d left it!
He looked back quickly to make sure no one was coming. Then he opened the door, slipped inside the room, and shut it behind him.
Wolf ran to the table. He turned the case to face him and opened it. It was lined with velvet, and, sitting in perfectly formed slots, were ten vials of a bright, red liquid. As soon as he saw them, another of his strange powers automatically triggered. Wolf could see magical energy, and the vials glowed with a green light that told him the liquid inside wasn’t ordinary.
He took one out and examined it carefully, but there was no label or other indication what it might be. He shook it. The liquid was viscous. He unstoppered the vial and sniffed. It had a strange smell to it that was vaguely reminiscent of blood. Carefully, he put the stopper back in.
Just then, the opposite door opened and a human walked in. He stopped dead when he saw Wolf.
“Who are you?” he demanded in Phrygian.
Wolf threw the vial at him. The man, whom he presumed was Anderov, ducked. It smashed against the wall.
Wolf tried to grab the case, but he didn’t get a good hold on it and instead knocked it onto the floor. The remaining vials shattered, spilling their mysterious contents onto the stone.
Damn. No way to bring back any evidence now.
Wolf turned toward the door. Before he could take even one step, though, Anderov was on him. He wrapped his arms around Wolf in a bear-hug. Wolf hadn’t seen him move.
He dropped into a wide stance and hit the Phrygian in the groin with a hammer-fist. Then he rammed his left elbow up at Anderov’s jaw, breaking the hold. Anderov fell back, and Wolf started for the door.
Before he got there, though, Anderov suddenly materialized in front of him. Wolf barely had time to see the angry look on the Phrygian’s face before Anderov punched him in the nose.
Wolf was scared. Like Wolf, Anderov was a Shadow – a person touched by the dark energy of The Rift, which granted innate special abilities. Unlike Wolf’s subtler powers, Anderov seemed to be able to teleport. Wolf hoped he couldn’t do anything else. This one power was dangerous enough.
Reeling, Wolf put up his hands to ward off a second attack. Anderov’s follow-up was quick, and Wolf barely had time to block it. He reached for one of his daggers, but Anderov teleported next to him and chopped Wolf’s wrist with a knife-hand strike, hitting the nerve and forcing him to drop the dagger. Then he hit Wolf in the ear with another punch.
Wolf sprawled across the floor. He staggered to his feet and made another run for the door. This time, he thought he was going to make it, but again Anderov materialized out of thin air. He threw out an arm and clotheslined Wolf just short of the door.
“You can’t escape me,” he taunted. “My Shadow powers allow me to teleport short distances. You can’t run far enough to get out of my range.”
He walked over to Wolf and straddled him.
“Then I’ll have to do something else first,” Wolf said in Phrygian and kicked his opponent as hard he could in the groin.
Anderov gasped and doubled over. Wolf rolled to his side and then swept the Phrygian’s leg. He went down hard. Wolf got up, made it to the door, and opened it. He got two steps out into the hall when Anderov teleported in front of him again.
Wolf ducked a haymaker and counterpunched him in the ribs. Anderov winced and backhanded Wolf, causing him to stagger back into the wall.
Anderov followed with another punch. Wolf dodged it, and the Phrygian yelped when he his knuckles hit the stone. Wolf rolled away and tried to run again, but Anderov was too fast. He reached out and snatched Wolf’s cloak, dragging him back.
“You’re making me really angry,” he said and then head-butted Wolf, who reeled backwards again.
Wolf’s head was starting to swim. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold out against the lightning-fast Phrygian.
Anderov came at him, and Wolf threw a punch the Phrygian blocked. Then he hit Wolf in the stomach, doubling him over. An upward elbow to Wolf’s head sent him pitching backward. His legs hit the sill of the window through which he’d entered the tower, and he was too stunned to recover his balance. He fell through.
John R. Phythyon, Jr. wishes he were a superhero or a magician, but, since he has not yet been bitten by a radioactive spider or received his letter from Hogwarts, he writes adventure stories instead. He is the author of the Wolf Dasher series of fantasy-thriller mash-up novels, two modern fairy tales, a two-act comedy, and the full-length fantasy novel, The Sword and the Sorcerer. Prior to becoming a novelist, he was an award-winning game designer.
He lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife, their children, two dogs, and a cat. It is rarely quiet, but it’s often entertaining. His current projects include the next book in the Wolf Dasher series, world peace, and desperately wishing for the Cincinnati Bengals to win a Super Bowl in his lifetime.
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