|Cover Artist:||Don Semora|
|Genre:||Christian, Scifi, Survival, Adventure|
|Series:||The Offworld Chronicles|
|Publication Date:||February 2018|
|Media Types:||Print (paperback) and Ebook|
|ISBN:||978-1370129478 (ebook) 978-1940155456 (print)|
|Preceded By:||The Race|
|Followed By:||Gold Rush|
Dragon's Gambit is book 2 in the Christian Survival Adventure series, The Offworld Chronicles and continues the story of Simon, his team, and their travels, adventures and experiences through the territory of the Four Kingdoms, the Westlands, and onward to Kestrel Weyr in the company of the courageous, yet reserved Maggy as the team pushes onward towards the finish line.
Back Cover Blurb
Hunted by the armies of the Four Kingdoms, harassed by the controllers, and caught in the middle of a war between good and evil the likes of which they have never seen, Simon's team must push forward through it all to reach the wintering grounds before the first snows begin to fall. But with dragons, demons and angels involved, nothing is as simple as it seems. With threats of death on every side, reaching the wintering grounds may be the least of their worries, as surviving what lies ahead will be their greatest challenge of all.
The story begins with two men in a restaurant in the little town of Havlet who sit down for a quick discussion and essentially trade notes and discuss in summary much of what's already happened in book one, and reveal some of the underlying, and previously unknown events going on in the background that the main characters and the reader are unaware of. The story then picks up with Simon and his team as they're continuing to sail up the river on their way to Subton, the home base of the Calypso. Clifford pulls in with his ship, disembarks Simon's team, then heads back out to continue scouting for salvage and floundered ships. As Simon's team hits the docks, a demon spots them and quickly reports this to General Amaroth's office. Meanwhile, Simon's team heads out of Subton into the surrounding woods in an effort to find the trail again and get back on their journey again. However, being in Unity territory, they must do it with the utmost stealth. The team eventually stops for the night, and posts watches in case Unity comes around at some point.
It's during the second watch, when Trevor is holding guard duty, that Yurg awakes and decides to go for a meal. While he's out he stumbles onto a Unity patrol which he tricks into revealing themselves, thus alerting the rest of his team. Yurg soon returns and reports what he's found. The news frightens the others. Realizing the danger they're in, Alex pulls the group back to a nearby hill that's reasonably defensible. It's not long before Unity reaches them, after which a brief but intense firefight breaks out with the Unity troops at a disadvantage, being blinded by a flare tossed at them by Simon's team. Being at a disadvantage, the Unity soldiers are decimated, with only a few escaping. Afterwards, Simon's team strip the bodies, trade up their Sheffield rifles, of which they've spent nearly all of their ammo for, and take whatever they can that's of value before fleeing back to Subton where they're surprised to encounter Clifford, who they thought had returned to his job of salvage. Meanwhile Amaroth, having received the news, makes his way out to the area where his men engaged Simon's team, and lost badly.
After just a few minutes of observation he correctly deduces what really went down, and correctly suggests that Simon's team will instead head up the river this time as the land route going forward is cut off to them. Meanwhile, Simon and team have been given a river boat by Clifford and are now headed up the river and further west along the trail. However, due to all the excitement of the last several days, everyone is exhausted and eventually all of them fall asleep, except Simon, who's driving the boat. But the exhaustion eventually gets the better of even him. So he pulls off the river into a side channel and up to a tree where he ties off and then goes to sleep, just missing being spotted by Unity Army patrols moving up and down the river in search of them, having been deployed on Amaroth's orders. Realizing that Simon and Team might escape detection, Sheobaal finds a nearby patrol boat, possesses its commander, and then sends them up the side channel where Simon's boat is parked. However, Fallon is aware of this plot and hides Simon's boat until the danger is passed. Later on, once Simon wakes from his nap, he pulls out of the channel and back onto the main river. They then successfully make their way past the Unity forces searching for them over the next two days and eventually end up reaching Drak Mardin towards sundown just as the boat's fuel supply is reaching exhaustion, pulling into a dock just as the engine dies from fuel starvation.
The team then disembarks and begins studying the city, but are unfortunate enough to have entered at the worst time, as Zek's dragon's begin their attack on the city with the intention of driving out its residents, as requested by their masters. In the midst of the confusion, Simon is snatched out of the city by Zek and taken a safe distance away to talk. Thinking their friend is now dead, or soon will be, Alex and the others rush through the city, amidst the dragon attack in search of safety and shelter. Some miles away Zek sets Simon down on the ground unharmed, kindles a fire, and the two have a long talk. In the midst of this, Fallon contacts him and they discuss Simon, causing Zek to suddenly realize that, while he had saved Simon, he'd left his team behind, not realizing they were the ones his grandson had asked him to protect. Frustrated, Fallon goes off in search of the rest of the team in hopes of saving them, despite the odds against him. Back in Drak Mardin, Alex and the others have successfully fled the city, while unfortunately suffering severe injuries in the process, and escaped to a nearby hill for safety. Down below them in the city, Amaroth and his men arrive and begin searching for Simon's team, much to Alex's dismay. Seeking to flee to safety, they quickly descend down the backside of the hill, but their forward progress is hindered by their considerable injuries.
Realizing that, if he doesn't do something, they're all dead, Alex leaves the team in Trevor's hands and heads back to the city to buy them some time. Meanwhile, the dragons of the previous night, who had attacked Drak Mardin, are gathered in a nearby valley tending to each other's wounds and discussing the previous night's raid. During this time, while Simon is waiting for their chance to return to the city, word comes that Amaroth has been spotted nearby. This gets the attention of all the dragons, as they have a deep seated hatred for Amaroth, just as much as he has for them. The dragons then take flight with the intention of exacting much deserved revenge upon him. Back at Drak Mardin, Alex, using his years of combat experience, engages the Unity forces single handed and fairs well against them for some time as Trevor and Birash send Yurg away with Aria for her safety while they go back and set booby traps to slow down the Unity troops. Up on the hill overlooking the city, Alex fights bravely against impossible odds, but eventually runs out of ammo. Forced to retreat, he is gunned down as he escapes and collapses, after which he is surrounded by soldiers who wait until Amaroth arrives. The old general sees his arch nemesis laying on the ground dying, gloats a little, and then finishes off Alex before sending his men against the last four members of the team.
Not realizing that Alex is down, Trevor and Birash rush to catch up to Yurg and Aria only to find that Yurg has collapsed from his injuries, and can go no further, and Aria is not doing well herself. About this time, the angel Caleb appears and assures them that they will be safe, and to trust God. He then leaves. Moments later they are surrounded by Unity troops. Amaroth soon joins them, gloats over the team briefly, and then prepares his men to execute them. However, before he can, Fallon appears and surrounds the entire team with his force field, protecting them from a powerful hail of Unity gunfire. This leaves Amaroth enraged and he orders his men to keep shooting, no matter what. As they do, Fallon struggles to keep his shields up as they are slowly running out of power and will soon fail. However, before they do, Zek and his dragons arrive and begin to decimate Amaroth's troops, wipe them out down to the last man. Zek himself, as the others are finishing off the Unity soldiers, lands next to Simon's team and surrounds them with his own shield, taking over for the now exhausted Fallon. He then turns his attention to Amaroth, whom he hits in the chest with an exploding fireball that launches the general into the air and through the trees.
Once Amaroth and his men have been dealt with, Zek sends his dragons in search of Alex while he busies himself healing Simon's injured team. However, shortly after this, Sheobaal appears and attacks Simon in a fit of rage, angry that his plans to exterminate him and his team had once again been thwarted. Zek tries to stop him, but is sent flying into the distance, along with Fallon. Sheobaal then returns to choking Simon to death, but is interrupted when Caleb reappears and demands that the demon unhand him. The demon at first refuses, but upon realizing he's outnumbered he obeys, then leaves. Fallon soon returns and takes over for Caleb. It's not long after this that Zek returns as well, relieving Fallon and allowing him to return to the weyr to recharge. Zek and Simon's team talk briefly about recent events, and then come to the horrifying discovery that Alex has died. They bury him and then spend the rest of the day mourning. The rest of the dragons soon begin leaving one by one, forced to depart on other missions and assignments, until only Zek remains. Soon he has to leave too, but promises to send another protector to them to help them in their journey. It's not long before Magendra Tallenon appears in the camp and introduces herself.
She then takes up guard duty as Simon's team continues to grieve. During this time, while talking with Aria, Magendra gains her nickname "Maggy", which the team ultimately prefers to use over her real name, as it's too hard to remember or say. As they do this, the Unity Army finds out about the defeat of Amaroth and his men and send more troops to find and destroy Simon's team in revenge. They soon catch up to Simon's team and shadow them at a distance, afraid of Maggy, as they fear dragons, and even having to battle just her alone would be a very difficult challenge for them to overcome. So they keep their distance and merely follow Simon's team as they wait for reinforcements. Eventually two tanks roll out of the woods and confront the team. The team is able to defeat them and moves on, heading towards the border of Unity territory. As they walk, Maggy and Aria share with each other, including some of the things Maggy likes, as well as details of her family. The team soon reach the border and approach the gate through the wall protecting the border. They have a brief, but terse conversation with the guards before they're finally permitted through, quickly leaving Unity territory and entering the outer border of the Westlands. Over the next several days they move deeper and deeper into the new land, during which time Maggy and Aria get to know each other better, and learn many interesting things about each other.
One night, while they're getting ready for bed, a group of four bandits rid up to them. After a tense exchange of words, the men leave. After hiking a ways further, they enter the town of Ruby. However, their reception, upon entering, is somewhat frosty due to the presence of Maggy and Yurg, and they are rejected by every inn and tavern in the town. Eventually they meet up with Adam and Martha, a local farm couple who invite them out to their farm, of which Simon's team gladly accepts. Back in Unity, Emperor Kildron, ruler of the Unity Empire, discusses their current situation involving Simon and his team with representatives of Gak and Sheffield. It is at this time that it's learned that Amaroth survived his encounter with Zek, although he came away from the experience heavily injured. He then calls Sheobaal, who gives them a hint as to where Simon and his team are currently at. Back in the Westlands, Simon and team arrive at Adam and Martha's farm. However, the arrival of Maggy upsets the farm animals enough that she opts to cloak in order to calm them again, much to the surprise of everyone there, as they didn't know she could do that. They then go to lunch. As they're eating, Sheobaal goes and reports to his master, Azazel, and discuss the state of events. Back at the farm, as the team is eating, Yurg hears someone approach. It turns out to be the four men from the previous day.
The team soon learns they're there to rob Adam and Martha again and take their stuff. However, with the help of Yurg, they're able to apprehend the men. Simon then takes 30 minutes with them and tries to witness to them, but the men reject his offer. The next morning the team takes the four men into the sheriff of Ruby and hand them over. Shortly after they leave, the sheriff appears and reveals that he's not only corrupt, but also the leader of the four men as head of the regional bandits. Once back at the farm they begin discussing the trail ahead and the things they can and cannot do while elsewhere, General Amaroth is preparing his men to march on Ruby. The next day Simon's team prepares to leave. But, before they go, they're gifted the four horses of the bandits, who become the four core original members of Simon's horse team. They each take a horse and give it a name they like and feel is appropriate. Simon names his horse "Caesar", Trevor "Spirit" and Birash "Tiny". Aria names their sole pack horse "Trick" as a joke, claiming that she got "tricked" into taking the bags. While Amaroth continues to prepare, members of The Syndicate meet and discuss Simon, and all of the issues he's causing on the race course. Azazel, who leads members of the Alien Brotherhood, desires to see Simon exterminated. But Agent 2753, and the other members of Section 17 that are present object, leading to the meeting ending in a stalemate.
Meanwhile, over at Trond, Zek learns from Fallon that Amaroth has survived, much to the elder dragon's dismay. They also discuss how this can be used to their advantage. Back on Adam and Martha's farm, Amos returns with his men, and the rest of the bandit gang, and threaten to kill both of the farmers in retribution. However, Maggy, who'd stayed behind knowing this would happen, comes to their rescue and kills all the bandits with extreme brutality, displaying a side of her not seen before. She then disposes of the bodies, while giving the spoils to Adam and Martha to pick through and use. In gratitude for what she did, Adam and Martha takes the newly acquired horses, taken from the now dead bandits, and gives two of them to Maggy, who are later named "Elliot" and "Peddle", to take to Simon's team. Hearing of what happened to his bandits, the sheriff of Ruby races away in fear for his life with his two deputies, and stumbles onto Amaroth's advance units. They talk briefly, after which they bring him to Amaroth. Back at Morten Weyr, Zek meets with Narond and his son Shuman about the current state of events, Amaroth, their desire to end the race, Maggy, Simon's team, the Four Kingdoms, and other topics, and how to put their current state of affairs to their advantage.
Back at Simon's team, Maggy eventually returns to them, and she brings the two horses she'd been given with her. Aria takes the stallion of the pair and names him "Elliot" and jokes with Trevor that she now has a new boyfriend. Shortly after this the team is caught in a rain storm that lasts several days and threatens to kill them from hypothermia. Realizing that the situation they're in is spiritual in nature, rather than natural, they kneel down and pray. While they do, Maggy is given the ability to see the spiritual battle taking place between Caleb and his angels, and Sheobaal and his demons. Once the prayers allow Caleb to win, the rain stops and the team continues again down the trail. Back at Amaroth's camp, the sheriff appears and talks Amaroth into coming back to Ruby to get Simon's team and restore order to Ruby, of which Amaroth agrees. Back in Simon's camp, Aria is given a dream in which she sees all of what Maggy did in their absence. The two then talk about it as Aria comforts Maggy about her mixed feelings in regards to her seeming Jekyll and Hyde personality.
Back at Adam's farm, advanced scouts of Amaroth's army arrive and question a farm hand, who refers them to the city of Ruby in order to find Simon's team. It's then revealed that the farm hand is actually Fallon in disguise. He reports the success of his diversion to Zek who is pleased at this, knowing that this will lead to the eventual destruction of both Ruby, and the Four Kingdoms. Amaroth, receiving the false report, rushes to Ruby to capture Simon's team. However, he is instead mocked by the locals, enraging him. So he has the city ransacked and burned to the ground. Amaroth then learns from a local woman that he's been tricked and that Simon's team has escaped. So he takes off in pursuit of them. In the meantime, various groups, including Zek and several others, get updated on the current state of affairs on the planet and with Simon's team. Eventually Amaroth's advanced forces catch up to Simons team and critically wound Aria in the initial attack. The team then fights back, with Maggy joining in the fray. However, she soon realizes that they planned for her being there and have put considerable thought into how to keep her busy while they exterminate Simon and the others. Just then Garloond arrives with his men and exterminates Amaroth's men, saving Simon's team.
After the battle, the two dragons introduce each other, and Simon's situation is explained to Garloond, who has his men gather them up and carry them away to the safety of Kestrel Weyr. As they're being flown to safety, Amaroth catches up with them and finds his decimated troops. He then discovers that the dragons have saved Simon's team and taken them away from the area. He resumes pursuit. The dragons soon reach Kestrel Weyr and land inside, delivering Aria to the healers while Garloond helps get Simon and the others settled. Maggy then brings Garloond up to speed on what's happened and their current situation. Afterwards Simon discusses Maggy's clear interest in Garloond and how much she likes him already. Back at Amaroth's army, Sheobaal appears to the general, who has now lost the trail, and shows him where to find Simon's team, continuing to assist him in hopes that the general will help him exterminate Simon's team. Back at Kestrel Aria awakens finally, and is rejoined to her team. They then discuss Aria's injuries and learn that this has impacted Trevor considerably. Simon and Aria then begin to console and council him. But Trevor isn't ready to hear this and storms out of the room in a fit of anger. Even so, the others all pray for him, and for God to heal his heart.
While they are doing this, Maggy and Yurg discuss Maggy's love life, and her interest in Garloond. Maggy in turn reveals all of the social complexities of dragon love, as well as her mother's constantly pressing insistence that she find a life mate. Outside the weyr, Amaroth's advanced forces have caught up to Simon's team and now attempt to infiltrate the weyr and kill his team. However, the attempt goes horribly wrong, and all of the men are killed while at the same time waking up the weyr in ways it has not seen in some time. The dragons, along with Weyr Master Akhur, discuss how they will seek vengeance against Amaroth and his men for what they did. However, during this conversation, Fallon appears and talks them out of it, saying that his grandfather, Zek, has something better planned. Elsewhere in the weyr, Simon and Trevor take some time to talk, and Trevor reveals that he wants to marry Aria, as well as leave the team with the intention of protecting Aria. Simon talks him out of marrying Aria, for the moment anyways, and explains why this would be important. He then talks with Trevor about his reasons for leaving and is okay with it if that's what they want to do. But he asks that Trevor think about it for a while and not make it a reflex decision, of which Trevor agrees.
Elsewhere Zek meets with his masters, the controllers, and requests two things from them. The first is the destruction of the Four Kingdoms, while sparing those within their borders who aren't part of them, and thus are innocent of their crimes. The second is permission to fulfill their right of revenge against Amaroth's army. The controllers agree to both of these requests, and then return Zek to his home. Zek then contacts Akhur and tells him that he's clear to begin his revenge against Amaroth. Hearing that the entire weyr is preparing to set out in vengeance against Amaroth, Maggy demands of Garloond to bring her along. But he refuses, proving to her that she's not ready for this. After this the judgment against the Four Kingdoms, and the decimation of Amaroth's forces occur, with Garloond personally seeing to Amaroth's destruction himself to ensure that the elder general doesn't escape again. Back at the weyr, while waiting for Garloond to return, Maggy and Yurg discuss Maggy's love life, and he tells her that, despite what her parents want, she shouldn't be hasty in such a decision. She agrees. Not far away, Simon, Aria, Trevor and Birash are being served a meal worthy of a king by the dragons as they are now officially their guests for the winter.
During this time Aria and Trevor reveal that they've talked it over and decided to stay with the team, going wherever Simon goes. They also reveal to Simon that they agree with his suggestion that they put off getting married for a while, after which Simon councils them, after which they strengthen their bond as a team, including Yurg, who appears late in the conversation and pledges his loyalty to Simon's team. Back at the main chamber, Garloond and his men return, but Garloond is sad, which Maggy immediately picks up on. Garloond explains that, while they tried to protect the innocent, some still got hurt in the destruction of the Four Kingdoms. They then shift topic to their budding relationship and, while Garloond is not quite ready to admit that he likes her, he's still willing to be friends and get to better know the young dragoness. Maggy even tells Garloond how, in her observations, she's seen how the God of Simon has been instrumental in all that has happened. Garloond isn't certain he wants to believe this, but is intrigued by this anyways. They then go for a walk through the weyr and continue talking and spending time together.
Several days later Simon and his entire team go out onto an observation balcony at Kestrel Weyr just as the first snows of fall begin to fall and take note of the fact that, despite the cold, all of the trees are still green, and nothing has either died, nor turned brown. Everything is as green and alive as the middle of summer. The others find this strange, but simply contribute this to being one of the oddities of the planet of Offworld. The team then spends some quality time together as a family of sorts as the book ends.
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