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The Silver-Tongued Rogue (The Dragon Gate, #3)

The Silver-Tongued Rogue (The Dragon Gate, #3)

4.6 Stars, 41 Amazon Ratings (as of 1/2024)

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Will impersonating a legend cost him his life?

While being mistaken for one of the missing Ellorian Champions has made Eric afraid for his life, playing along during quests has also saved him from death. He just wants to be free of the danger, but now the real champions’ families have captured him and his three friends, stripped them of power, and put them in chains.

If his quest to recover a dragon egg from the trolls who stole it is thwarted, his fear of never getting home to Earth may come true. Can Eric live up to the reputation of Andier, the Silver-Tongued Rogue, and persuade his captors he had nothing to do with the real Champions’ disappearance? Or must he and his friends try to fight their way to freedom?

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Chapter 1 – The Last One Standing

As he woke to a roaring vortex of flashing lights and wind, Eric Foster thought for a moment that he was dreaming. He had been asleep on the floor of Jack’s apartment, but now he stood on something invisible, feeling wide-awake and invigorated. Had he gotten a full night’s sleep, or had the spell summoning him done that? The T-shirt, shorts, and underwear he was wearing disappeared for a few moments. He didn’t bother to cover himself as he stood nude before the others, his short black hair rustled by the air. Then his expected black leather armor and boots appeared, snug and supple, a short sword on one hip. He had hidden knives throughout his clothing, lockpicking tools were in one pocket, and a black rope was coiled about his waist like a belt.

Across from him stood Anna Sumner. The summoning spell had braided her blonde hair behind her ears, and the gold Corethian Amulet hung around her neck. Those and her white priest’s robe with its golden trim would have made her seem elegant were she not still standing with one forearm desperately covering her breasts, the other hand over her crotch. Now dressed, she relaxed her posture and saw him smirking. She flashed a rueful smile and seemed to sigh. It was so loud that even if she screamed, he’d hear nothing.

To one side stood Ryan LaRue in golden plate mail, a matching helmet tucked under one arm, a giant sword on one hip, and a gold lance in one hand as its butt rested on the invisible platform beneath them. As a big, tall man, he always looked huge in the gear, and he seemed far more comfortable with his role now as a knight than when they had started all of this. He flashed a resigned smile and ran a hand through his blond hair, likely mentally preparing himself to be their spokesman on arrival.

Across from Ryan stood Matt Sorenson, a black wizard’s robe hiding his thinness. His wavy brown hair rustled in the air, one hand tightly gripping a staff, the crystal atop it dark because he wasn’t using it. Eric caught his eye and arched an eyebrow, which Matt saw, nodding before his eyes drifted away and his lips began moving. They had previously discussed the possibility of him erecting a protective shield once they arrived, if they seemed to be in immediate danger. For the first time, Eric realized that he and Matt could communicate during this with sign language, which Matt knew because his mother was deaf, and had taught a curious Eric.

Suddenly the vortex ended, and Eric blinked in the bright sunlight, the sun high in a cloudless sky. His dark eyes darted past the expected stone pillars of the circular Quest Ring surrounding them, the glowing blue runes on the stones already fading. Outside the ring on one side stood most of the people who had brought them to whatever planet they were now on instead of Earth. Many wore armor of various kinds, but no weapons were drawn. A few more warriors casually stood to either side and behind. He noted two wizards—one behind them and another, who seemed like the one who had cast the summoning spell, before him.

Eric began to relax, noting the ocean all around them below. They stood atop one of the higher, grass-covered hills on a large island. The warm air smelled of spring, wildflowers blooming nearby. A small mountain range loomed nearby and blocked the view beyond, but on either side of it could be seen an expanse of sea. A port city with tall, wooden ships in the harbor lay miles away below them, with towers and a castle above it all. A winding path led down from their position to a clearing among the trees, where a dozen dragons sat patiently so that Eric knew they were steeds. Since horses could have easily been used to get them to the city, he surmised that they would be flying to a different continent. It lay in the distance in another direction, the shoreline visible from here. Behind it were taller, snow-capped peaks that pierced the clouds forming around them.

Beside one of the wizards stood a striking woman in black plate mail etched in blue, a sword at her waist. She wore it all well, seeming calm, assured, and unimpressed. Her close-cropped, jet-black hair hardly moved in the gusty winds, blue eyes dancing from one arrival to the next, a look of growing interest and menace surfacing in them. It seemed clear that she had expected something and hadn’t gotten it—and Eric had a bad feeling he knew precisely what it was.

“Greetings!” Ryan boomed in the voice Eric had first heard him use while playing a knight at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. “We are the Ellorian Champions and are glad to—”

“No, you are not!” snapped the warrior woman, eyes cold. She yanked her sword from its sheath and the other warriors nearby did the same, the sound of metal ringing. She came closer and into the Quest Ring as everyone else stayed just outside it. Eric swore but didn’t draw his sword.

Ryan faltered. “Uh, why do you think—”

“You think I wouldn’t recognize my own brother?” (italics) she snarled, eyes turning to Matt.

Anna gasped.

What? thought Eric, startled. Oh shit. Ryan’s uncertain eyes met his.

They had been impersonating the Ellorian Champions for two months, but not because they wanted to. It just seemed safer than admitting to being four people mistakenly summoned for quests they weren’t qualified for, didn’t want, and yet had to complete before being sent home. That someone summoning them would realize the truth was bound to happen eventually, but a relative being present had never occurred to him. Matt was impersonating the wizard Soliander, whose robes he wore, Soliander’s famous staff in one hand. And apparently this woman was Soliander’s sister.

“Listen,” he began, holding up placating hands, “we can explain, if you just—”

“Where is Soliander?” the woman asked, turning toward Matt. She extended the sword toward his neck, though she came no closer. Eric wondered if she knew about the spell on the staff—the one that made any blow aimed at Matt strike the attacker instead.

“Taryn!” Matt said, sounding surprised. He didn’t look afraid. “You’re Taryn, his older sister.”

She arched an eyebrow. “How do you know that?”

Uh, long story. I have his memories in my head and—”

What? How is that possible? What did you do to—” A look of menace appeared. “Seize them!” Taryn swung a fist at Matt’s hand and knocked the staff to the stones. Then she slugged his jaw. He fell into an unmoving heap. Guardsmen closed in with swords raised.

"Wait!” Eric yelled, heart pounding. “We are no threat to you.” He put one hand on Ryan’s sword arm to stop him from drawing the steel. Magic incantations behind him made him look back. A wizard pointed at Ryan, who slumped to the stones with a clatter.

“Eric!” cried a panicked Anna, backing away, one hand on the golden amulet at her neck. She began crouching as if to surrender, but the butt of a spear struck her head from behind and she fell forward to Taryn’s feet.

In sudden fury, Eric swung around and clobbered the guard who had done it, a spray of blood and teeth erupting. Another guard closed in, and Eric kicked out to stun the wrist holding a spear. A second kick and the man doubled over before an elbow to the back levelled him. He sensed Taryn closing in from behind and turned, one hand on his sword hilt, but her sword point was at his neck and he stopped moving.

“Yield,” she commanded, blue eyes cold. They stared at each other. Eric removed his hand from his sword. Footsteps came from behind and several hands pulled his arms back painfully, a rope wrapped around his wrists. Someone took his sword, then patted him down for knives. He silently counted as they did so. Only he and the Silver-Tongued Rogue Andier, the man he impersonated and whose armor he wore, knew where every last one of the blades was, and his captors couldn’t find them all.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Eric said, glaring at Taryn and indicating his unconscious friends.

“Maybe I just wanted to.”

“What are you going to do with us?”

She walked away without answering as the guards forced him down on the Quest Ring’s stone floor, where his friends’ bodies lay unmoving around him. Despite the adventures they had already experienced, he’d never seen them laid out helpless like this—and so quickly! Maybe they had just gotten lucky before now. But the truth was that Taryn had surprised them with the sudden attack. He nodded to himself. She was wily, respectable. Neither was it surprising if she was really the sister of Soliander, the Majestic Magus, a man known for his intelligence. What would a sibling rivalry have been like?

He watched Taryn approach a tall, well-built man in a black and silver tunic, a ceremonial dagger at one hip and black trousers tucked into matching boots. He carried himself like a noble and had short black hair and dark eyes. Were they siblings? Soliander did have a younger brother, too. Eric regretted that he and the others knew so little about the real Champions, as their ignorance might be a serious liability right now.

As Taryn stopped beside the man, he said, “I will reluctantly concede that you handled that expertly.”

“Nothing pleases me more than your praise, Lord Dari, especially when it’s so sincere.” Taryn glanced back to meet Eric’s gaze.

A brief frown appeared on Dari’s face. “The more time I spend with you, the more I understand why my old habit of snide remarks was not viewed favorably, as much as I enjoyed making them.”

She favored him with a smirk. “Are you flirting with me?”

“Is it working?”

Definitely not brother and sister, thought Eric.

She lifted her blade and fingered the edge, adopting a philosophical tone. “Some consider it a bad omen when they unsheathe a sword and don’t draw blood with it. Perhaps this is a problem you are willing to solve for me.”

Unconcerned by the implication that she was going to cut him, Dari replied, “Some would consider that a threat to a Prince of Andor.”

Taryn put her weapon away as Eric continued listening. “Pity. I thought you might be honored to have your blood on my blade.”

“What now?” Prince Dari asked, nodding at Eric, who had stopped listening for a moment on hearing the word “Andor.”

He knew the name. Ryan, lying beside him, was pretending to be Lord Korrin, a Prince of Andor. If Dari was also a Prince of Andor, he was a relative, maybe even Korrin’s younger brother. While Eric didn’t know what the real Champions looked like, he knew that he and his friends bore enough resemblance to fool those who hadn’t met them. Dari had black hair and dark eyes, but Ryan, and therefore Korrin, had blond hair and blue eyes. He pursed his lips, wishing he knew what Korrin looked like so he could judge whether Dari seemed that closely related.

Regardless, that at least two relatives of the Ellorian Champions had tried to summon them was no coincidence. Were the rest of the families involved? Were they here? They were going to want answers and would be understandably hostile if they thought the impersonators were somehow responsible for the real Champions being missing for three years now. Eric and the others had taken their place by accident and played along, trying to figure out how to be heroes and somehow break the cycle of unwanted quests for which they were now summoned.

He perked up. Almost no one knew that the real Champions hadn’t been voluntarily doing the quests. They were magically summoned into a Quest Ring that bound them to do it before they could return home. And now that was the fate of Eric and his friends. Did the Champions’ families know? If so, they were almost certainly sympathetic—and that sympathy might extend to Eric and the others if he could convince them they were victims, too, not perpetrators. Maybe they would help despite Taryn’s attack just now. He understood her doing that.

Precautionary, at the least. The real Champions were formidable. Eric and his friends had succeeded at several quests, and caused word to spread that the Ellorian Champions had supposedly returned. Others could assume they were fearsome. He admired Taryn’s quick thinking.

She broke his thoughts on saying to Dari, “Every last person here must be sworn to secrecy.

They already were, that we were attempting the summoning, but it is even more important that no one knows what has happened. See to it that your men obey.”

So she wasn’t in charge? This surprised Eric. She certainly acted like she is.

Dari asked, “General precaution or is there more?”

She shook her head. “We need to bring them back to Andor and interrogate them to find out what has happened.”

We’re on Elloria, Eric thought, not surprised.

“Why wait?”

“Not here. I don’t want more secrets spilled and spreading.”

“Fair enough, but let’s send the unconscious ones and the guards down to the dragons to get ready for the flight. We can ask that one a few questions.”

Taryn ordered some to remove Korrin’s golden armor from Ryan, the Corethian Amulet from Anna’s neck, and to wrap Soliander’s staff in a cloak. Eric nodded to himself. The items were famous across worlds. Seeing them together left little doubt as to their supposed identities. They were to be brought to Andor as four bound prisoners of no importance. He stifled any outward display of emotion as the order was carried out, the sight of his unmoving friends being disturbed upsetting him. At least he was awake to witness their treatment, and he vowed to do nothing to inspire their captors to render him unconscious, too. Only Matt stirred, a moan escaping him as men lifted him and the others, carrying them down the path and away. Finally, only Taryn and Dari stood on the hilltop, inside the Quest Ring, looking down at Eric as he sat.

“You may rise… or do you need help?” Taryn smirked at Eric, who sat cross-legged, arms behind his back. He rose smoothly anyway, years of martial arts mastery making this no challenge.

She seemed somewhat impressed, which told him she admired skill.

Eric said, “Taryn of Aranor, I assume? And Prince Dari of Andor.”

“And you are not Andier of Roir,” she replied, unfazed by his realizations. She was a hard one to impress. “Who are you?”

Time to at least appear cooperative. “Eric of Maryland. I doubt you’ve heard of it.”


“Earth. Are you Korrin’s brother?” Eric asked Dari, who cocked an eyebrow.

“How did—” The prince stopped himself, but Eric had his answer. “We’re asking the questions.”
Taryn asked, “Do you, like your wizard friend, somehow have memories of the Champions?”

Eric wasn’t sure how much to tell them, especially if they weren’t going to share intel themselves, but the answer to her question should have been obvious and he wondered if condescension would make her slip. “If I did, I would have recognized both of you and wouldn’t have asked that, now would I?”

The briefest of frowns touched her lips and he knew she had pride in her intelligence. They silently regarded each other. “The names of your friends, and who is who.”

“We’re all from Maryland. Matt is the one you punched in the face for not being your brother. Ryan is Korrin. That leaves Anna as Eriana.”

“How did you come to be here instead of the Champions?”

Eric admitted, “We don’t know.”

Dari snorted. “You are clearly pretending to be them.”

Eric frowned at him on purpose, hoping that showing the same contempt for him that Taryn did might help form a bond with her. “That doesn’t mean we know how we’ve been substituted.”

Taryn eyed him shrewdly for several seconds. “Where were you when the substitution first took place?”

Eric realized she knew this wasn’t the first time. The Champions had supposedly done several quests after being missing for years, with word of each quest spreading rapidly. Their families had undoubtedly heard. She had figured out that the real Champions did not complete the recent quests and wasn’t bothering to ask him to confirm it.

He replied, “Earth. A place called Stonehenge. It’s a monument. Looks like a Quest Ring, though we didn’t know that at the time. There are no Quest Rings on Earth.”

“Then why were you at this Stonehenge?”

“Vacation. It’s a famous landmark. It suddenly lit up and brought us to another world, where we first learned about all of this.”

“To Honyn,” she surmised.

“I assume you’ve heard of the quest and its outcome.”

She nodded. “And the others. That is how we knew they had returned after being missing, or so we thought. Why pretend to be them instead of confess?”

He shrugged. “It seemed safer. Better we wonder who people expect us to be, than everyone else wonder who we are.”

She eyed him quietly again. “You must have known someone would realize the truth eventually.”

“Yes. But we didn’t anticipate the Champions’ families summoning us. We hoped to have more answers first so we could better deal with the fallout. Why did you try to summon them?”
Dari appeared ready to tell him not to ask questions again, but Taryn put a restraining hand on his arm, calculating eyes on Eric. “What did they usually do after a quest?”

He considered, realizing she wanted to see if he could figure it out. “Go home. But they haven’t because it isn’t them.”

“You are returned to Earth afterwards.”

“Yes. So you have been wondering why, after they were missing for three years and then resumed quests, they have not come home. You want answers. And now that we’re here, you want more of them. Well, so do we.”

“Then I assume you’ll cooperate.” Taryn indicated that he should walk toward the path leading to the dragons. “Oh, before I forget,” she began, following him, “you’ve been summoned for a quest to recover a stolen blue dragon egg and return it to the Kingdom of Novell, where we stand.” Eric frowned and she laughed. “Yes, I know we must tell you the quest within an hour of your arrival or you are not bound to do it and can send yourselves home.”

She didn’t elaborate, and Eric knew why. Now he and his friends had no choice but to cooperate with an interrogation—because all Taryn and Dari had to do, to imprison them on Elloria forever, was never tell them how to achieve this quest. Trying to escape was pointless. That she had outmaneuvered him explained the spark of humor in her eyes. She was fearsome.

They descended the dirt path as he looked around, wondering why this place had been chosen for a Quest Ring. The rings were sometimes in a central location in a castle—but given that one was likely to be used only once, if ever, that was a waste of space. He had chatted with a few of their previous summoners and learned that the rings were like tourist attractions (not that that expression had been used). They were seen as a status symbol and conversation starter, nobles from one land expressing admiration and thinly disguised jealousy that they didn’t have one. Not everyone could. It had taken Soliander and then his apprentice Everon many months to create them in various places. No one really knew how many existed except Everon.

The now familiar sight of dragons caught his attention. Having ridden a few, battled another, and even seen an undead dragon hadn’t muted his awe. Most of the dragons present were red, a few gleamed silver in the sun, and one was black except for a gold streak on its chest and head. All but the latter wore a saddle and reins. Each dragon was large enough to swallow him whole. All but the black one ignored him; that one watched as he approached, a familiar intelligence and cunning in its enormous golden eyes. He wondered what sort of breath weapon it had—fire, lightning, ice?—while also hoping he didn’t learn the hard way.

He had already noticed that the guards wore two different insignias on their armor. Most had a blue dragon head facing forward on the white sail of a ship. He surmised that this meant Kingdom Novell. Only a handful of warriors wore the symbol matching Prince Dari’s—two gold daggers pointing downward to form a V, on a red background. Taryn wore no symbol that he saw, which made him wonder whether she worked in the official capacity of her kingdom Aranor. As he waited, guards began loading his unconscious friends onto one dragon or another, strapping them in place. Prince Dari walked away and climbed onto the larger silver one, seldom taking his eyes off Eric for long. From behind him, Taryn removed his bindings and, to his surprise, returned his sword, though she kept the knives.

“I’ll be clear this time,” she began, holding his gaze. “If you run, you’ll get an arrow in the back. If you attack, one of the wizards will stun you. If you try to jump off your dragon into the ocean, you’ll find the dragon’s magic is holding you on. The dragons will not obey you. If you upset me, I’ll get the information I want the hard way.”

Eric appreciated both subtlety and directness when used at the right time. Sensing this might sound like he was flirting and wanting to avoid that, he said,

“Only a fool would upset you.”

“Most men are fools.”

“I am not.”

“I know. Mount the remaining red.”

Eric approached the dragon, who lowered his wing for him to climb. Not until seating himself in the saddle did he notice Taryn climbing the black dragon’s wing. Somehow, it didn’t surprise him that this was her steed, nor that she didn’t use a saddle. He had gone without a saddle once before out of necessity but still preferred the seat, mostly for its emotional and psychological comfort. He needed to get over that, he now knew, because it would toughen him up like her… but what happened if the dragon fell unconscious and couldn’t keep him on anymore? He smirked. He would crash into the ground and die anyway, so maybe it didn’t matter.

Prince Dari’s silver dragon was the first to lift off. They circled above, clearly waiting for the others, but it wasn’t until Taryn rose into the sky that anyone else did so, too. Eric permitted himself a grin, certain that Dari held little authority. If needed, maybe he could drive a wedge between the prince and anyone else. He didn’t want to make enemies of anyone, but if Dari was already that, then weakening him in any way he could was wise.

Eric watched as the island and its Quest Ring, the way home, disappeared behind them. That wasn’t the only way back, as another such ring could do it, but this was likely the closest one to Andor. He surmised that the kingdom didn’t need one. After all, Korrin was from there. If a quest was needed, all the king had to do was ask his son to do it, not summon him and the others. He assumed the island kingdom was an ally of Andor, which was both a city and a kingdom. Getting back to the Quest Ring would be harder with both of them as enemies. He had to convince them of their innocence but sensed that Taryn, at least, was amenable to that. He would find out soon enough if the rest of the families were more like her or Dari, who seemed to have assumed the worst. Now more than ever, Eric might have to live up to the reputation of Andier, the Silver-Tongued Rogue, and talk their way into an alliance.
Without one, they were never going home.

Table of Contents

  1. The Last One Standing
  2. The Interrogation
  3. Mandrellan
  4. Oil and Lilac
  5. New Friends, Old Friends
  6. Princes and Trolls
  7. The Dragon Egg
  8. A Lady of Fear
  9. Other Worlds
  10. Briardale
  11. The Prisoners
  12. The Sons of the Magi
  13. The Devastator
  14. A Lady of Hope
  15. Kira Mori
  16. A Deal with a Wizard
  17. The Keystones
  18. The Crime Scene
  19. Shards
  20. The Dragon Lord
  21. A New Home