Titus Dragonmaster is the leader of the Fifth Circle, one of the five city-states on the planet Here. As chief influence and protectors of the Domains, an enormous tract of systems on the far side of our galaxy and home to nearly a quadrillion human and human-DNA inspired beings, Titus’s home world is beautiful, breathtakingly advanced, and riddled with political agendas. After a 2500 year self-imposed exile on Earth, however, he has returned as a twenty-first century Earthan with only scattered memories of his old self.
Side by side, we dropped to mere meters above the surface, outracing the spray our wings lifted from the water. I made a hard U-turn and bore down on an outgoing freighter that had already hit the eighty-five-knot outer-harbor limit, then came alongside, trying my best to tip my wings in bon voyage. The entire crew was on deck, waving their helmets and hands in kind. Another turn of the bay under hot summer suns, and it was back home—yes, home—to land, find legs, laugh.
Successful architect Jeff Miller takes a flier on a screen test for a major motion picture. But the Fantasy blockbuster The War or the Risen is actually cover for an alien black ops mission to return Jeff to his true home world in time to stop a potentially catastrophic political coup. Of course, Jeff has no memory of anything but his life on Earth and his family. Yet as improbable coincidences and signs multiply, even from his beloved wife Jenny, he is forced to re-examine his true self, why he may have left his home world, and the incalculable cost of not returning home.
Mykanna is Titus’s mate on Here. Once inseparable, a grievous accident during the first Axxaan war inexplicably damaged Mykanna, causing her to exist in a strange half-life just as she and Titus had begun building the Fifth Circle. Over time Titus pulled away from Mykanna and eventually his grief over the loss drove him to his self-exile on Earth. When Jeff returns as Titus, however, those memories are gone and he reestablishes his relationship with Mykanna..
"When we flew, everyone came out to see the new dragons, so proud: my white and dark gray scales set off by Mykanna’s gold and silver refinement. The Little Island Archipelago, the peaks above treeline, the high desert at dawn. The songs and dances of our being."
Coming from an enigmatic past, Jenny meets Jeff during a short vacation in Hawaii during a trying time early in his career. She and Jeff are instantly smitten with each other and with no marriage certificate, they become a couple and soon three children come. Jeff, inspired by the love of his life, builds a home in Hale’iwa on the north shore of Oahu. But after 24 years together, Jenny’s secret starts to unravel as she sees Jeff embroiled in the black ops extraction—of which she has been a participant since before she met Jeff.
As captain of the Fifth Circle house guard, Shandann is charged with the protection of Titus. Recruited by the extraction team to play Jenny, she leaps at the chance. Driven by an unrequited love for Titus and programming to make her Jenny, she's irresistible to Jeff and plays a key role by keeping Jeff grounded as the extraction team makes its strategy come to fruition. After Titus returns to Earth, her programming is erased and Shandann is conflicted about a lost life and how to react to a new reality with Jeff/Titus.
Every dragonmaster—rare as they are—has a teacher, a warrior mage or curate. Korvaann, Titus’s teacher since his youth, is all that and much more. As leader of the extraction team, she is instrumental in guiding Jeff and effecting his “rescue.” She is also inscrutable, enigmatic, and obtuse, even as she tries to help Jeff/Titus recall his past on Here. She provides insights that are not always comfortable, and reminds Titus of who he is and what he must do, never forgetting he is first and foremost Jeff Miller.
Executive Producer of The War of the Risen, Vivian Fleisher is a Hollywood major domo who coerces Jeff into his screen test and ensures he gets the part that was expressly written for him as part of the extraction plan. She is also Jeff’s chief antagonist as he tries to extricate himself from the movie-making madness and get home to his family. Ultimately, Jeff recognizes Vivian as the voice of inevitability and while she receives no pleasure in forcing him to become what she knows he is, she takes her job extremely seriously.
The reason why Vivian Fleisher takes her job seriously is, on Here, she is Titus’s chancellor, or second in command. Responsible for Fifth Circle’s domestic and extra-solar policy, Liat is the practical counterbalance to Titus’s impulsiveness and was deeply invested in the extraction operation if for no other reason than to keep the Fifth Circle whole. Exasperated and exasperating, Liat helps Jeff/Titus navigate political complexities after his absence, even lending a hand in the interstellar conflicts that await the Domains.
Predator Film’s script consultant and linguist. A 4’ 9” chain smoking firebrand who would be at home in a Tarantino film, Sunny is charged with preparing Jeff’s for The War of the Risen. It quickly becomes apparent she has a completely different agenda: to help Jeff remember that he is Titus. As part of the extraction team, she teaches Jeff the language of Here in unsettling ways, and even takes him back to the home world to explain some very difficult facts to him. Throughout it all, Sunny is unforgiving with truths he doesn’t want to hear.
It took a moment for me to make sense of the dazzling fractals: glints of black and cream alloyed to iridescent copper scales so perfectly wrought, so precisely fitted to her bantam frame it was like she was…a dragon. Two quick beats of her long, translucent wings brought her to the top of the cupola; she rolled and braked lightly centimeters from the work surface, wings high and talons outstretched. A large burgundy eye, avian and reptilian at once and burning from within, marked me as she settled onto the workspace.
On Here, Sunny is Rondor, Fifth Circle’s interlocutrix, responsible for internal security or, as Titus calls her, the Top Cop. Shortly after the successful extraction, she is called off-planet to mediate an alleged dispute triggered by Jeff/Titus’s actions on Earth, leaving him without his unflinching conscience. Yet she returns much later in the story and we begin to understand the unique relationship she and Titus share, the heartbreak, the madness, and the forgiveness that comes with time and understanding.
Third Circle Dragonmaster. Ruthless. Insane. As the youngest commander ever of Here’s Marines, her name became synonymous with terror throughout the Domains. Now, she exerts absolute tyranny of her city-state. Yet she reserves her special lunacy for Titus, including helping him return to Earth. Will she complete the mission or kill him? But she also covets his children who would lead to her dominance on Here. There is a deep current of history between her and Titus, making them uncompromising enemies.
As dragonmaster of the First Circle, Nonynn was mentor to Titus and Mykanna in their youth. Having lost his mate early in life, they became his surrogate children as they began their military careers and eventually returned to First Circle to begin their lives together. Over time, however, Nonynn has been seduced by forces outside the Domains with the promise of returning his mate to him from the dead, and he executes a coup of the Fifth Circle while Titus is returning from Earth with his decidedly unusual family.
I stumbled backward as the hand in my shirt was suddenly a single, massive claw and the fabric parted on the keen edges of its talons. I fell on my butt and stared up at Nonynn in his draconian form. I realized right out of the chute that there was only room for one dragon in this office. Which actually wasn’t the worst thing in the world because Nonynn couldn’t stretch to his full height so he had a limited range of motion, but if he ever connected with me, I was going to be pulped.
Retired as Here’s Fleet Admiral, Olatanthus is dragonmaster of the Second Circle. Her city-state is responsible for producing much of Here’s tech. Having never lost her steely edge or imperial bearing, she represents order and stability for the Five Circles. She must reluctantly accede to Jeff's knowledge of Earth as she sends the team back for the second extraction. Later, she reassumes her old rank to lead the fleet against aliens from another dimension that threaten not only Here and the Domains, but our entire Multiverse.
On the edges of the Domains, toward the rim of the galaxy where five-space thins, exist singular nomads called Rimstalkers. Unaligned with anything but their own thoughts, they explore mysteries beyond and between the Multiverse. Savadaan is a Rimstalker and for him, there is no past, only an enigmatic present and an uncertain future. Yet in an almost pre-destined encounter, he travels with Titus and his motley crew aboard the privateer Beats Working, helps them reveal hidden riddles, and becomes instrumental in the cataclysm to come.
Justin is Jeff's first born and only son and a senior at the University of Hawaii, having wanted to part ways from his family to start living his own life. Always with a girl, he is dashing, if not particularly sure about his future. All that changes when his father leaves Earth in a spectacular way that completely changes the course of Earthan history. But he won’t believe his father’s story, even when he is eventually rescued by the Here fleet. And when he and his sister are revealed as incredibly unique beings, it begins to dawn on Justin that reality is not what it ever seemed.
Breathless, she walked slowly around Justin and reached high to his plated tibia, caressing golden scales that glinted in the sun, flowed in vivid contrast to the wide matte-black slashes on his flanks. He snorted briefly, a laugh. Who knew dragons were ticklish—even a 12 meter prodigy with wings, claws, and talons more than capable of carrying off an SUV? I hadn’t realized before how striking, how immense, how positively gorgeous he was, and from a place deep inside of me pride flooded my heart.
As the son of a dragonmaster, would you not expect Justin to be one himself? His ascended name is Rannyar “he who sees around clouds.” After helping the fleet destroy a nearly inconceivable foe in interstellar combat, he has a choice to make: begin his training on Here with the madwoman Het, who has the wherewithal to raise him to his potential, or take his chances with the depleted ranks of the other Circles? His choice is inspired and frustrates Titus’s enemies while bringing him closer to those that truly care for him.
As a high-paid private redactor, she refined her merciless psychic interrogation skills until Het tapped her as Curate, second in command of Third Circle. With abhorrent and abstruse tastes outside her duties, Tannann is Het’s constant companion—and lover—who helps her dragonmaster gain substantial advantage in her inscrutable political ploys. She plays an ever increasing role in drawing Titus’s children into Het’s embrace.
The youngest Miller child, Lisa is a bright, disaffected sixteen year old girl like so many we know in the late 2010s. When her father returns to rescue her and her mother she is drawn inexorably to Titus, to Here, to the promise of being something different than she was on Earth. Caught in Het’s snare, however, Titus and Shandann free her long enough for her instrumental psychokinetic role in bringing down the Fixture Levy. But she demands to go with Het, the only one she feels who can properly guide her to her true potential.
Lisa sat on her haunches. Gods, she was beautiful. Well, beautiful in a stark, austere way. From talon-tip to her bony crest, she was completely white, an Apple white; even the components of her eyes were white, save those reptilian-avian pupils, vertical slits of black. As breathtaking as her coloration was, it was as if she’d been rolled in crushed diamonds, like some celestial baker’s confection, and even in the muted interior lighting of the suite, slivers of incandescence ricocheted from her small frame at her every movement.
Loskeene is Lisa's ascended name. Tannann has reshaped her form to match her dragon avatar: the White Assassin. Emotionless, unable to speak, Loskeene channels her gifts through control, or psychokinesis, the same facility that she and her brother used to defeat the bizarre Fixture Levy. She has given up control to gain control, completely ignoring her brother, father and mother in pursuit of refining her gift. Unlike her family, however, she can never appear other than she is: she’s a freak: it’s what she wanted…
“If I had a good god damn clue what you’re talking about, I might be able to tell you, but because I don’t, I’m thinking I’ll go home.”
“And whisper sweet nothings to your little ghost?”
My hand snapped out and locked around her upper wrist, high enough that she couldn’t employ her nails. I throttled it hard.
“Just an ex-expression,” she said tightly.
“So is ‘fuck you.’” After a couple more seconds I let go.
“There’s too much going on to have an argument, Titus, and I’ll thank you for small favors but I’m not ecstatic either. I don’t trust you. Don’t give me a reason to not like you as well.
“And Titus.” She got between me and the slider. “I know you. At least the Titus you used to be. Don’t try and do this all yourself. We fight as a unit and we win as a unit. You know this. Respect it is all I ask.”
“And you’re mine.” Mykanna sighed, and our lips met softly. She rested her chin in the crook of my neck. “You’ve been gone for so long.”
“Watch the warrior’s wounds.” I smiled and we kissed again, deeper, more completely. I put my good hand behind her head and felt heat beneath that sublime hair. Mykanna was almost as tall as I—at least in our human form—and everything about us was marvelously fluid. When we broke off, it took a while to find our breath.
Mykanna and I were the upstarts, if twenty thousand years old qualified as upstart-class. And I, the penniless but brash orphan and she, of high blood with the grace of celestial chimes like Pachelbel’s Canon, effortlessly complex and lyrically complete, bonded the moment we laid eyes on each other. When we flew, everyone came out to see the new dragons, so proud: my white and gunmetal gray scales set off by Mykanna’s gold and silver refinement.
I swung my head around and watched Justin wrap Lisa in his wings. Scales hissed and spanked as they met. His ascending mass, so much greater than her spare build, defeated gravity, and they rose together until Justin flung open his wings and sent his sister high again into the volume where her alula properly opened and she took to her wings with grace and fidelity.
When recruited at gun-point to a rouge cadre in Special Circumstances--Here's black ops dirty tricks force--Titus travels to an isolated retrofit station where the Beats Working is being modified for a perilous mission. There he meets Jaka, a refugee from a broken family, who gets by on her wits and willingness to kill. She sees Titus and his fabulous privateer as her ticket out to the Rim, but never bargained for becoming entangled in the most audacious power play the Domains has ever seen.
Titus raises a cold one just after his beloved West Enders beat ATC Aqualate 13-3, thus securing the side's first Ay-Tan City Cup in more than twelve hundred years--and bringing jubilation to its long-suffering fans. Shortly after Dejan sketched this portrait, Titus hopped a pod over to Tunek's where he partied with the players until all the songs were sung.