To The Dragons

Some of you — cough Eamon J. Cole cough — asked about this novel To The Dragons that I’ll hopefully be writing in the later half of NanoWrimo.  It’s actually a trilogy To The Dragons, With The Dragons, For the Dragons.  I am not proposing to write those three in two weeks, but maybe I can finish it over the holidays?

Anyway, for the subscribers, yes, I’ll be posting more on it, as I finish it, you get first peek.  But so everyone else doesn’t think I’m even crazier than usual (or perhaps has his/her suspicions confirmed, who knows?) here’s the first chapter:


To The Dragons

Sarah A. Hoyt


I always get scared before a flight.

Up in the saddle, with my pulse racing, I check the extra magazines for the Lewis, in the saddle bag, and hope that I’ll have time to reload. Then I check the bombs in their container and hope we won’t have the rare kind of defective that will blow us both out of the air before we even come near objective.

My dragon’s wings spread, and I feel the shifting of his muscles, and that’s when I start shaking, in a mix of nervousness and memory. It is never sure, when we take off like this that we’ll come back alive. In fact, the odds are greatly against it.

Suddenly my uniform is too tight, the wool prickly against my skin at wrist and collar. I count the bombs on the saddle bag, afraid of one of them will be a dud, afraid we’ll miss the one chance at fulfilling our mission.

He stretches his wings and I feel, even beneath the saddle, the movement, as the great muscles of his thighs coil, then push, lifting us into the sky, his wings flapping madly, biting into the air for purchase, until he can find the thermals and coast.

The sound of the giant wings against the sky reminds me of the first time I ever heard them consciously, flapping above my childhood home.

For just a moment, I’m a three year old standing before the ruins of her home, thrown out of a window by the initial explosion, the only survivor of her entire family. A war orphan.

The trembling gets worse, and then I hear the dragon’s voice in my mind: “You’re all right.”

It’s not a question, but an affirmation. I’m all right, and he’s there with me, there in all my memories, there as we head for what might be a no return flight. There.

It makes a difference. I am in peril. But not alone.

From the age of three to twenty two I was alone, another orphan in the war with the dragons, a young waif evacuated in one of the last convoys from Great Britain to make it safely to the United States, raised in an orphanage in Chicago, trained to be an elementary school teacher to the other legions of orphans this war had made.

And then at my first job I was faced with the talent tracker.

It was a box, square, pale. Looked like it was made of painted metal, nothing much special about it.

I’d balked at it, but I’d been told everyone had to go through it when they got their first job. It was the needed thing to do, the important thing to do. Only one person in a thousand could bond with a dragon, and even then half of those who could didn’t, for some reason. Everyone must be tested. The Katharos dragons had numbers we couldn’t match, and we must use all our dragons. All of them. Humanity had no hope of winning a battle against the Katharos, unless we could field all of those dragons who stood with us.

I’d balked at it because I did not want to bond with a dragon, not even with a dragon on our side. We heard things, after all. How much on our side were the dragons? How much did they identify with the Katharos, the pure, the dragons who wanted to purge humanity from the world? Dragons had killed my family.

But it was the law and at least if rumor was true to have the type of mind that could bond with a dragon’s, you needed to have dragon blood yourself.

Dragon riders were needed because transformed dragons couldn’t drop bombs and fly or keep their minds and sight clear enough to battle in midair, so even the Katharos had one dragon in human form riding the other, in dragon form. And the dragon and rider had to communicate telepathically, which might be easier for dragons, but for humans it meant you had to be bonded to a specific dragon.

And we certainly didn’t have enough dragons in our midst to be able to afford dragon flying teams.

I knew all this. I still didn’t wish to be tested for it.

On the other hand, they said you needed to have dragon blood to be able to bond with one of them. And I very much doubted I had any, unless my ancestors were far more interesting than I’d been led to believe. Less than one person in a thousand had the ability.

Which is why I’d stood in that small office, transfixed, staring at the small white box as it hissed.

I can still remember it perfectly, the expression of the matron and the principal frozen in shock, and then the principal’s smile and “Well, well, that’s never happened before. That’s quite an honor, Miss Winter, that is. Now, if you would wait here, I shall go put a call through to the search headquarters. I’m sure they’ll send a car.”

He shook my hand, effusive and congratulatory, his hands dry and very warm, his face grinning. I wondered if there was a finder’s fee going to the school, then chided myself. After all, anyone who wanted for humans to survive would be glad to have found a potential dragon rider, right?

But I didn’t feel glad. I made a muffled excuse, something about using the ladies’.

I went out and kept walking, with only the money in my purse. I didn’t dare return to my lodgings.

In my mind, I had the vague idea that I could take a train across the country to California, that I could find some place to get lost there. We always heard that California, being subjected to attacks by the Katharos was far more chaotic and tests weren’t being properly made and all.

This was not so much a clear thought as a mindless drive to get out of Chicago, to escape, to escape the search office and their car, to escape the search itself and bonding with a dragon.

I couldn’t do it. I approved of it for others, mind, but I just couldn’t.

Twenty eight hours later, I got out of the train in Denver, to take another long-distance train to California.

And stopped as I saw a line forming, in between platforms. There was a desk and a search machine set up. There were military police all around. I could have run, I could. But if I had run, I’d have found myself caught very quickly. I could earn nothing by it but bruises.

And two hours later, I was winding my way along mountain roads, in the back seat of a car, with a military police next to me, telling me how glad they were to have found me, how difficult it was to find dragon riders, and particularly young women dragon riders.

Turned out the search wasn’t for me, but just a general search. Apparently people who were discovered weren’t always willing. Some had history like mine, but more were already married and set in their ways.

“I suppose you had no idea you were a dragon rider,” the young man said, as he dropped me at a base outside some caverns which I understood had once been used as a touristic attraction. “I mean, a potential one.”

The people who received me, men in uniform whose insignia I couldn’t understand, were all smiles. “There is a bonding going on right now, and there are far too few riders. Come on along. You’re just in time. No, I’m afraid there is no time to change.”

There was also no time to escape. As panicky as I felt, I could not run in the face of this. They weren’t doing anything to make me run. And besides, where I would I go.

They escorted me down what might once have been natural corridors, now provided with smooth floors and electric light.

The bonding cavern, as I’d learn it was called, was a huge room. You could have dropped three or four Cathedrals in there and not have noticed.

There were half a dozen people there who were not military personnel and who looked as out of place as I was. Or at least, they wore what looked like jumpsuits. I suspected it was the same uniform they’d have given me had I had the time. But I wore my grey skirt suit, and clutched onto my purse, as the uniformed men escorted me to join the group.

Past the group were… I smelled them, the slightly reptilian, dry smell. It smelled like… like hot leather. I didn’t have any associations with the smell. I’d never smelled those who’d destroyed my home.

There were at least a dozen dragons, in colors ranging from bright red to green to a strange silvery one with a shimmer to him that made him look like he was made of glass. I knew this type of dragon. At least I knew him from reading. They were called Pures by the Katharos and considered the most desirable of all types of dragons.

I found myself blinking at him, as he turned his triangular head to look me in the eye. He had dark grey eyes and somehow I got the impression he was there as reluctantly as I was. He looked away quickly.

“Ah, here, if you just put your hand on their muzzle. If you bond, you’ll hear the dragon in your mind.”

My hope was that I would be one of fifty percent potentials who wouldn’t bond. Bonding with a dragon is like a marriage. In fact, to preserve decency, the bonded pair is strongly encouraged to marry. The flip side is that you might have all the ability in the world, but if you didn’t find the right one, you might never bond.

With a military gentleman next to me, I patted desultorily at the nose of a brown dragon who leered at me, and a green one who rolled his eyes. There was nothing.

I took a deep breath of relief as the military gentleman took me to stand right in front of the silvery-glass one, and waited. I lifted my hand and set it on his muzzle. I knew he was male, though I hadn’t been sure about the other two. Don’t ask me how. Something to the structure of the face, or the expression.

I set my hand on his muzzle. Like the others, it was soft and warm, which surprised me, since I expected dragons to have cold skin.


And then something happened, like a tingle in my back brain. The dark grey eyes focused on me and widened and I heard an unmistakably masculine, faintly accented voice in my mind saying, “Damn.”


318 responses to “To The Dragons

  1. I like that. I’ll take one when it’s done. Please let me know.

    • Well, I’ve had the cover in my head for ten years, I just didn’t know what it was. The cover looks… Baen. (A woman in WWI-like gear sitting astride a silver dragon, flying towards the viewer while a train races underneath. It’s the climax of the book) So Toni gets first shot. If she doesn’t want it, then I bring it out.

      • I honestly don’t care who publishes it. Just let me know where to buy it. I really liked it. You had me at magazines for the Lewis. I generally don’t care for this kind of nook but this caught me, I was genuinely disappointed when the teaser ended.

        • Yeah hooked “I check the extra magazines for the Lewis” I mean if you know what a Lewis is, there is no turning back. Might as well start the reach for the back pocket. Lot-a-burger isn’t getting this fiver. I could lose a pound or two. Sigh.

  2. Ah … shades of Pern.
    But I like it.

  3. OK, I just added it to my To Buy list.

  4. Eamon J. Cole

    I walk away from the computer…

    Thanks! Oh, and, yeah: WANT!

    I like the Pern homage with the shifter spin. Not to mention the contemporary/near contemporary setting. Yep. Want.

    For everybody else, tips to the instigator can be deposited in the cookie cabinet.


    • it’s contemporary, only the war with the dragons started two hundred years ago and slowed things way down, so WWI tech.

      • Eamon J. Cole

        My canted brain is warring with itself. I want Through Fire so you have to finish that but — I want To the Dragons (and the rest of the trilogy, now’d be okay) so you should drop everything…

        This is the point when you can safely ignore me and my canted brain and follow your own priorities ’cause who am I??

        • I must finish Through Fire — Baen has paid for it. And then I need to finish Darkship Revenge. Baen is waiting for it.
          So, what I need is really intense concentrating on my getting out of this bad patch that has held me back for two years.

          • Eamon J. Cole

            I know, I want those, too. (Greedy? How rude.)

            What I can’t figure out is whether cloning you with some sort of mind copying or uploading you to a giant computer in a warehouse offers the fastest path to multi-tasking books… Hm. More study. (Whaddya mean Dan doesn’t want a wife in a warehouse? We found a space…)

            In the meantime, here’s hoping for smooth waters and fast fingers! And you can bask in the warm glow of reader’s perched and waiting. Nothing like Vulture Snoopy. Promise.

            (The expanded teaser you gave Kali? Yeah — need this book.)

          • Somebody really needs to invent technology so you can just upload the stories directly from your brain to ours, to save all that time writing.

      • Is medicine also WWI era?

        • Somewhat. No anti-biotics, for ex. But it’s mixed with the peculiar knowledge of the dragons, and with some truly spectacular weirdness of dragon physiology. For instance cyanide — “sky drops” — have roughly the same effect on dragons as heroine on humans.

          • questionableprovenance

            I noticed this in your shape-changer books also. You use “heroine” instead of the correct “heroin”. Are you using voice-recognition input, or just automatically typing heroine because you use the word so often?

            Note that in all these case, I am assuming you mean the opiate. I will admit that heroines have a non-pharmacological affect on me.

            • Christopher M. Chupik

              Sarah writes strong heroins!

            • I tend to write the word heroin, but the copy editor should have caught it.

            • I mean heroine. Stupid fingers.

              • questionableprovenance

                Did you just prove my point, or did you do that deliberately. And if you need a good copy editor, I’m great at catching other people’s mistakes.

                • Those are BAEN books. They get the copyedit.
                  No, the issue is in Portuguese they’re both spelled the same way “Heroina” so my head refuses to believe there’s two spellings. Sorry. I only learned English at 14, and though it’s gone a long way towards becoming “native” some bits are odd. One of them is heroine/heroin and the other is double letters. (I put them where they don’t belong and take them from where belong.) – Sarah A. Hoyt, despair of copy-editors.

                  • Accentuate the positive.

                    Sarah A. Hoyt, keeping copy-editors in bourbon (now and into the future).

                  • Double letters are the bane of many an English-speaker. I frequently have to double-check to make sure I’m getting them right. My mom has the same problem, and we’re both pretty much mono-lingual, native English-speaker.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Were the Dragons known about (ie not legends) before the war started?

        If they were known about, that might influence the development of firearms even before the Bad Guy Dragons started the war.

        For that matter, while not making excuses for the Bad Guys, the development of better firearms could have been a factor in why they started the war.

        IE they may have had a “Superiority Complex” before hand and humans developing weapons that might harm them caused them to start the war.

        • questionableprovenance

          Perhaps the development of gunpowder by the Chinese was driven by their awareness of dragons.

        • Yes. They colonized most of Asia, but they lived at peace with humans, until the Katharos religion/movement emerged.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Grumble Grumble

            Now you got me thinking about how world history would have changed with the appearance of Dragons on Earth.

            If they arrived far enough back in history, this story world would be unrecognizable to us.

            If their arrival was “fairly” recent (say four centuries ago), Europe might be somewhat recognizable prior to the start of the war but how would their presence influence the development of the Americas?

            Sarah, no need for you to answer. If I can accept Dragons involved in the Napoleonic Wars, I can accept your story-verse.

            It’s just my mind starts working on the question of “if we make a change in the past, what would the present day look like”. [Annoyed At Myself Smile]

    • Eamon J. Cole

      Hey! Header change! Have I had my head up — in the clouds and didn’t notice or did you do that today?

  5. At first, I whimpered slightly– not Dragonflight, please? But then the dragon rolled his eyes, and I knew I was back in the hands of Hoyt.

    I’ll buy it. Is it going to be YA?

    • Very not YA. And no, not Dragonflight. The dragon is… complicated. I have the entire fricking thing in my head and it’s driving me nuts. With the Dragons involves infiltrating Katharos territory. For the Dragons involves the big bad, in a three part war.
      Let me explain — I thought Pern (though I loved it when I was young) balked the “war” thing, because it was a “war on thread” and therefore the moral questions were clear, etc. In this case the dragons are sentient, shape shifters, and have been on Earth long enough many humans (most humans?) have a bit of dragon, as well as most dragons have a bit of human.
      The dragon calls himself Azriel. He goes by Ace. His dragon-colleagues (?) call him Lucifer. He has the most awesome father in the world (no, seriously. I have a crush on his dad.) And he and the POV character are on a collision course on most fronts… All the while having to prove themselves and learn to fight, all while only a part of the US remains to the free world and able to fight. Oh, and there’s all sorts of questions of civil rights and of citizenship for the dragons, because state of war, etc.

  6. BobtheRegisterredFool

    It’s a Gundam!

  7. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I like that last line. [Very Big Grin]

  8. Wantwantwantwantwant~!

    That is all.

  9. 🙂

  10. Christopher M. Chupik

    Sounds good. Now finish it. And everything else. 🙂

  11. Didn’t you write more than one opening to this? Seems to me I recall reading more than one version of an opening chapter, but I could be hallucinating.

    /wanders off to check subscriber space/

  12. Astrosorcorer

    OK> This looks awesome. Let us know when this hots bookstores. I must add it to my hoard.

  13. Okay, I think I’ll have to read this when it comes out! For the record, Pern is my favorite place outside of the real Earth (and the future New Heavens and New Earth). But I like the snippet you just posted!

  14. So you tease another awesome book as I start a new job where I’ll actually have discretionary money again. *rubs hands together* All is proceeding as I have foreseen. (Yeah, right!) Seriously though, it looks great, and I can’t wait to buy and read it.

  15. Hoorah! I’ve been waiting (im)patiently for the next chapter in subscribers space but I didn’t want to jog your elbow while you were busy putting the finishing touches to books for Baen.

  16. carlton mckenney

    Picture of money on the end of a fishing line..
    Caption:”Here little muse. Come on out. See the nice picture of Franklin? You know you would like to have it. Just come out and take a little nibble. There’s a good muse. Come a little closer. That’s good. Just a little further…”

  17. IIRC Lewis gun magazines were properly called “drums”. Just a suggestion.

    • Because of the way it coupled to the weapon, the magazine for the Lewis gun was called a pan.

      • Again,my issue is telegraphing it’s a gun. Not for this bunch, natch, but for normal readers?

        • For normal non gunnie types, you might be better off just calling it a “clip.”

          • I think “drum-magazine” might be safer. Unless she *wants* gun-people to throw the book across the room…

          • Eamon J. Cole

            Urk! You — you didn’t?

            • How about I call them circular magazines?

              • Eamon J. Cole

                A quick scan on {search engine} showed several more or less reputable sources calling them “pan magazines.”

                That doesn’t make me twitch anywhere near like “clip” for things that ain’t clips does.

                For my own small sample.

                • pan magazines CAN be mentioned but you realize people who don’t recognize “lewis” as a gun are going to think she’s cooking?

                  • A couple of full pan magazines and that Lewis will be cooking for sure.

                    • Okay, for the experts — what do you carry as backup for the lewis if you run out of magazines, or find yourself making an emergency landing and have to shoot someone on the ground? Or is the answer “nothing, you’re pucked?”

                    • Aviators generally carried sidearms like the venerable 1911 or the Enfield mk. 1. I personally would recommend a stem or M3 submachine gun, lightweight bullet hoses.

                    • I was considering a 1911, for no other reason than that I’ve held one, and have a book on them. (What?)

                    • Eamon J. Cole

                      Just a quick aside, you have a book so I assume you know the Lewis will need some sort of mount/sling/brace/stand thingy on dragonback, right? Saddle pintle or such.

                      Out of ammo in aerial combat? Things are bad. On the ground? Personal battle-rifle consistent with your tech base. If your shifters are stronger than human in their human form you can play a bit, but your rider needs standard handhelds. The problem being the WWI era battle rifles tend to be long (too long to sling while riding, I’d say). Off the top, I’d say standard battle rifle (whichever one makes you giggle) in a scabbard. Maybe two, one for rider, one for shifter on the ground?

                      In a pinch, your rider (out of pans) could pull the rifle out of the scabbard and return fire in the air. Just be very unlikely to hit anything, particularly in dog-fight conditions. Would have to attain a superior position and stable flight to have any hope…

                      But I am not a WWI expert, so maybe somebody has a better solution?

                    • I mean, the dragons can flame, but it’s apparently limited and if already wounded could take it out of them.
                      I happen to know the climatic scene of the book involves on the ground combat…

                    • Eamon J. Cole

                      Hm. Plot will drive your choices, of course, but here’s what I’d consider (some mentioned obliquely elsewhere):

                      If I thought there was a good chance I’d be grounded and have to fight, I’d find a way to strap a battle rifle on. I’d drop weight in some other place to make room. I’d cut down on food/clothing/whatever to get it in. I’d be inclined to defy orders to carry one. Because a pistol in combat has very little utility (As a general rule, there are exceptions. I don’t think they apply here.)

                      The complications to your plot: rifles are much more stand-off weapons. With the greater range it takes more care to craft the scene where your antagonist gets close enough for snappy dialogue with your protags. It can be done (it happens in RL) it just takes consideration to avoid some folks banging their heads with “SHOOT THEM!” spitting from the lips.

                      Military aviators are armed with pistols. Solely as a defensive measure, they’re expected to evade and seek/wait for rescue. This stems from a number of things, but one of the big ones, a grounded aviator has lost their primary tool of combat. They’re a minimal threat (in theory). A grounded dragon pair may well still be a significant fighting force. Depending on the conduct of the opposition, a grounded dragon-rider (because of scarcity) may be an important target.

                      I’d want an effective weapon, and that’s a rifle.

                    • Maybe a Browning Automatic Rifle? Right period, right manufacturing, reliable as the day is long. So easy even a marine can operate it. It is heavy though.

                    • Eamon J. Cole

                      Yeah, the heavy would be my concern. For total weight questions and female riders. Roughly double standard period rifles.

                      Otherwise? Hell yeah.

                    • Oh, and thank you for “pintle” — I didn’t know the term. Yes, it’s made to fasten on the saddle. I have a picture of the field mount and the comment from the dragon in my head was “Spikey ends, owwwwwey.”

                    • Eamon J. Cole


                    • Eamon J. Cole

                      For a little verisimilitude you might consider a mechanism for limiting traverse or blocking the action when the dragon’s head/neck might be in the way.

                      A noted complication would be that dragons can/must turn their head in combat. The rider has to be able to deal with this and avoid shooting their own mount. This is not easy, especially with automatic weapons. In addition to a mechanical limit for when the gun is in line with the dragons head/neck, there would have to be some training/technique for the dragon to turn their head without getting it in the firing line.

                      Not to bog the story down in details, but these are the things that go through my brain…

                    • eh. Good, because there are training chapters…

                    • “Sten”… your spellchecker sniped you. The M3 had a very slow rate of fire, compared to a Thomspon or even a Schmeisser, IIRC, (Let alone a Shpagin.) It does have the benefit of being light, compact and controllable. Also, how hard is it to hit a full-grown dragon? Okay, forget the last. I’ve seen troops miss a stationary tank hulk on the LAW range.

                    • I am a martyr to my uppity machine editor.
                      Yes, I mean sten. A Thompson would be a little on the heavy side, wouldn’t it. We’re talking flying here and weight is always more of an issue than size. The sterling was pretty light, more modern open bolt subguns would work as well. 9mm or larger calibers I would think. How resistant is a dragon’s hide anyway?

                    • Pretty resistant, relatively speaking, which is why you go for the wings, the skull or the underbelly.

                    • Then your sidearm would need to be more powerful/accurate to deal with that. A browning action with a longer barrel in .454casull should do the trick. Like Alucard’s weapon in the “Hellsing” anime series.

                    • Anything like hunting alligators which have only a tiny vulnerable spot on the back of their heads? Why yes I watch Swamp People. Why do you ask?

                    • questionableprovenance

                      I was wondering about vulnerability of the skull. Given that the creature flies, and has, apparently, a large brain, it is unlikely that it would be as thick as the skull of a grizzly or elephant.

                    • Eamon J. Cole

                      Adaptations such as cartilaginous sheets (such as found in the torso of hogs) could increase resiliency to blows (shock absorption) and provide penetration protection (dense and fibrous). A cap around the skull as well as sheets along the ribs would be advantageous. Given sinuous necks, sharp claws/teeth and blows from wings, these might develop through natural evolution (wherein natural evolution applies to dragons/shifters).

                    • Yeah. You can get them through the head.

                    • Eamon J. Cole

                      Mostly WWII era weaponry. Though the Thompson was invented in 1918, so it might be viable in her timeline.

                      My problem with those, they’re handgun cartridges. If you have to fight dragons, do you want handgun cartridges? Or rifle cartridges?

                      ‘Course, we have to consider the weight limits of the dragons. Is a grounded pair likely to expect rescue? Are they likely to be attacked by opposing dragons once grounded? Is there a significant ground fight to deal with? Occupied territory? These inform what you’d carry as a primarily aerial combat unit.

                    • No rescue. Yes, opposing dragons might attack, and yes it might be occupied territory.

                    • Eamon J. Cole

                      Rifle. See my other ramble for my whys.

                    • One vote for a Webley.

                  • Carbine model of a standard WWI era rifle. Yes they weren’t standard in WWI but with WWI tech it is completely understandable to take a BAR (or other lighter weight rifle, even a Springfield or Enfield if you so chose) and chop the barrel off at fourteen or sixteen inches. This would be a logical adaptation for dragonriders in WWI era tech. The reason we didn’t have 30-06 carbines with fourteen inch barrels in WWI wasn’t because nobody could think about it or manufacture them, but because we didn’t have a reason for them.

                    This would give you the superior ballistics (inferior to standard barrel length rifles, but far superior to the handgun cartridges used by guns like the Thompson) of a rifle cartridge and the maneuverability of a carbine. Still not as convenient to pack as a pistol, but far more useful if it becomes necessary to actually use.

                    While not a military rifle the Remington Model 14 was WWI era, came in a carbine model, and the pump action would have been preferable to a bolt gun if it had to be used dragonback. It came in moderate calibers like the 30 Remington, and 35 Remington. (think 30-30 ballistics) not up to 06 ballistics, but not that far behind 303 British or 30-40 Krag.

                    • I pondered carbines. Question is, do you go for package size/maneuverability on dragon-back or eking out the greatest possible punch with barrel length?

                      Comes down to room in the “cockpit” I’d think. I favor the scabbard, so storage isn’t an issue, but if you need more compact length to be able to effectively deploy the backup from the saddle…

                      The pump action is a good point. Also another point in favor of the Winchester 1895! Whoo! (No, my favor for that rifle is not rational. But I like levers.)

                      I think the 30 calibers make sense, even post-dragon. You can take anything with a 30-06, it’s just not an optimized big game cartridge (though there are heavy loads). Dedicated big game cartridges are designed around one shot situations, no rapid fire. No need for repeating actions with many, many cycles. Military considerations quickly fall to logistics, wear on equipment in service and how many rounds in a cubic foot are significant considerations.

                      Added to this, aerial combat is not a sniper dual. It takes a lot of rounds to get hits, so erring on the side of more ammo just follows. ‘Tis why I think the Lewis is a good choice in the air.

                      Not that a dragon mounted Ma Deuce doesn’t have it’s cool points. Maybe a specialty wing?

                      And as TxRed mentioned, specialized ground units with heavy cartridges would make a lot of sense. Adds some danger for dragons on the ground.

                    • I could throw out interesting (well to some of us) possibilities in caliber and firearm choices all day. But yes I believe the 30-06 to probably be the best all round choice and I love the choice of the Lewis, while I like the BAR it would be unsuited for dragonback work (possibly some infantry could use it, and infantry could have longstanding arguments over the various merits of the BAR vs. Lewis) I would go with a carbine though for dragonriders. While not quite WWI era, a friend of mine has a 760 pump carbine in 30-06 (I love 760’s and own one in 270, but while I have seen them in carbine, I have never found a 270 carbine for sale) and while it no doubt loses some velocity with the short barrel, it isn’t really noticeable out to a couple hundred yards. Of course some of this is due to all the burn rate choices of modern powders, not sure how much the old nitrocellulose powders would lose in a carbine length barrel.

                    • I could see powder development proceeding fairly well despite the dragon drag on tech. Even spurred by it. Larger industrial processes and advancements in metallurgy and manufacturing processes would suffer (industrial points are natural targets in war) but smaller scale/less obvious research could be ongoing. Better powders give better performance reducing the need to develop a dragon-buster round.

                      I, too, love the Lewis. Was a grand moment in the teaser.

                      I could swing carbine. Especially as a secondary weapon. Lot of advantages there. The pump’s definitely a good touch, mounted bolt-action is right out. The only quibble/concern I’d have with pump, are laymen likely to know about pump rifles?

                      I have no doubt we could swap caliber/platform choices until the wee hours! I’ve been taking the whole exercise as “throw stuff on the pile, let Sarah pick and choose as she sees fit.” She can let it wash over her and see what sparks, and I get to doodle and distract my brain. Win-win.

                    • I should add Ace will need weaponry too, for his less… overt activities.
                      And what ya’ll earned yourself is betta reading for this thing.

                    • My dog’s barking at me. I think the bouncing in the chair and giggling concerns him.


                    • For “less overt,” are we talking OSS or IRA?

                    • We’re talking he’s suspected of being a double agent.

                    • So OSS then. More James Bond than raider. Lapel knives and cyanide capsules. That is awesome.

                    • I thought he was fishy . . .

                    • If we’re looking for punch and flexibility over short distance you could do worse than the Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun with discarding sabot rounds for dragon difficulties.

                    • Carbines (in the form of shortened infantry rifles) existed before WWI. Intended as issue to cavalry and artillery troops. Actually, it was early in WWI, that experience with trench warfare and the resulting changes in infantry doctrine, that many major armies started to issue carbine length rifles more generally to infantry as well.

                      I think an American flying corps would issue either M1911 .45 ACP automatic pistols or M1917 .45 ACP double action revolvers to crew – depending on whether they were considered deserving of issue of first line weapons (in the case of the M1911) or scorned and issued second-line stuff like the revolvers that the US Army issue because they couldn’t make enough M1911’s fast enough for the rapidly expanding US Army in 1917.

                    • jselvy, for the WWI era style, the Winchester 1897 pump shotgun was issued for trench warfare with a perforated metal barrel shroud (aka “the shoulder thing that goes up”)

                    • Shot, slug, and discarding sabot penetrators the 1897 is a good choice for short ranges. Probably can generate sufficient power to punch through the hide.
                      Sarah, are dragons as well armored in their human forms? Or will they be vulnerable to anything that’all kill a man?

                    • In their human forms, they’re human. They heal rather fast, but not if you kill them first.

                    • So, nail with a discarding sabot in the air, follow up with a load of #00 on the ground will get you one dead dragon.

                    • “I should add Ace will need weaponry too, for his less… overt activities.”

                      Catgut. Possibly he plays a fiddle or something, so he has an excuse to be carrying extra strings? Just remember for him to have the ends wrapped around something as a handle rather than directly around his fingers; this induces a /headdesk/ reaction in me, particularly when piano wire is used and the author has the character take a couple of wraps around their fingers.

                      Also he wears a ponytail, this would provide a reason for him to carry a hairbrush (if he portrayed himself as vain) and they make stiletto hairbrushes with the blade inside the handle.

                      Otherwise I highly recommend HE be the weapon. Remember, “there are no deadly weapons, just deadly people.”

                • Seriously, the Lewis is a top loader like the Bren. Which is a good idea in an aviation setting. Some doughboy remarked on the magazine’s resemblance to a frying pan during the first world war and the name stuck.

                  • Yah. I haven’t fired one, but I’ve seen them on youtube and I own a book on them. (You can’t have it.)
                    Next range trip maybe one of the flies will bring one.

                    • If you can manage it, try to get to the big machine gun shoot in Kentucky, I believe it’s at Knob Creek. I guarantee you’ll see one there as well as any other automatic weapon you might have a passing interest in.

                  • Eamon J. Cole

                    Oh, I know (in general). Just trying to meet Sarah’s need/desire to avoid gun-nut outrage and clear prose for the uninitiated.

              • I thought the circular magazine was “Time.” 😉

        • Eamon J. Cole

          By the by, I didn’t miss the implication of abnormal readers. 😐

          And I have no argument against it…

        • Well, you could use the political standard, and describe it as a scary black gun with high capability magazine clips and a thing that goes up on the back…

    • I know they’re circular and flat, so that name makes sense, but… um… will look it up. Because see, the unwary who read “drums” won’t know it’s a gun.

      • Eamon J. Cole

        Linguistic drift/layman’s assumptions. Your character knows: in firearms magazines hold the bullets. Her military training hasn’t (quite) overcome this casual observation with the details that sometimes bullets are held in clips or pans or cans and magazines are buildings (or compartments) used to store all sorts of things. And porn.

        Maybe she could mentally kick herself with “this is my rifle, this is my gun” type training mantra? “This is my pan, this is my magazine (Playgirl)…”

        Or maybe we gun nuts could accept that 200 years of dragon induced technological drag have introduced different nomenclature in a military struggling to meet the demands of a life or death war within the framework of terribly constrained resources.

        Drill sergeant: “I don’t care if you call it a magazine, a pan or Aunt &*^%ing May! Stick it in and pull the *&^$ trigger!”

        Nah. That’d never work.


        • I could have the last in the next chapter which involves using the Lewis.

          • Eamon J. Cole

            While there are solid reasons for the military being pedantic, particularly in training, when you’re pulling in every single person who displays a particular talent it might become necessary to let some particulars slide while focusing on the bigger picture.

            Function over form, and try to teach the inherent lessons in a different way that might work better with the varied backgrounds of your reluctant recruits.

            Myself, I’d be determined to see that my recruits could operate and maintain the weaponry with proficiency. I’d work on “details matter” in another venue. Particularly if my training time was short due to the demands of the war.

            ‘Course, I could turn around and argue that in the other direction, too.

            Just a couple of obsessively polished pennies, from an opinion nobody’s gonna call humble.

          • questionableprovenance

            Couldn’t fit this in at the proper indent level – no more “reply”s available.
            a) telegraph it’s a gun by mentioning that she checked the safety
            b) That’s the reasons pilots carry pistols – they prefer to leave being pucked to hockey goalies.

            • My .02 cents, DON’T change the first chapter. Gun enthusiasts will know what a Lewis is and love you for it (look at the first comments above 🙂 ) most anybody who reads much of any modern action/adventure, mil-fic, police procedural, etc. will recognize a magazine as going with a gun and correctly deduce what a Lewis is, and when you get to our heroine training with it a couple chapters down the road the three clueless readers will have an “Aha!” moment, and the non-gun enthusiasts who aren’t familiar with a Lewis, but recognize it is a gun, will get to learn that it is a top-load machine gun that takes “pan” magazines is a right bastard to clean of the nitro powders.

          • Should we ask her how she’s describing her dragons’ riding tack? *weg*

      • FWIW, pan is the correct American usage, but in the British manual the pan is just one part of what they stuffily continue to call the “magazine.”

        BTW, a link to Lewis info including the original Brit and Yank manuals.

        • Also, how fast do your dragons fly that they have a mounted rider? Are there conventional aircraft in this world? ‘Cuz I have to say, if I was flying a Lightning or Thunderbolt against a dragon with an exposed pilot, I like my odds.

          (No Mustangs, of course, since no England means no Merlin engines)

          • No aircraft. The dragon war started in the 18th century (though the dragons were around before that) and it’s a war of human extermination. No aircraft.
            I have no idea how fast they fly, yet. I need to calculate how fast they can fly without killing the rider. I’d assume any WWI plane speed…

            • Anything much over 300 mph and an open cockpit isn’t viable. Even at the high end of that you’ll need some kind of windscreen or airdam to protect the pilot.

            • 110-115 MPH, probably a Vne (never exceed speed) of 130 mph with a “pilot,” faster without. If they can curve the membranes on their wings (cup them into “flaps”), they could have a pretty slow landing speed, assuming they’re not able to flap fast enough for a vertical landing. (Or are too tired to flap and glide in instead.)

              • I should add that this is if you want speeds analogous to the top-end WWI fighter aircraft.

                If you have dragons that “power dive” like peregrine falcons, keep in mind that they’ll need a h-ll of a lot of airspace to break out of the dive and regain altitude. Otherwise you’ll end up with a very large but very thin dragon on the ground (or have to devise built-in air brakes like a Douglas Dauntless or Corsair had).

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            WWI tech levels so if there’s airplanes, they’ll be bi-winged types with open cockpits.

      • You’ll need some kind of mount or harness for it, too: swinging it around freehand while balancing on the back of a fast-moving animal jinking erratically is not a recipe for hits…

        Oh, and if your dragons use some kind of chemically induced fire (like Heinlein’s in The Glory Road) incendiary rounds could be a useful touch… “BOOM! Right in the old gas-bag!”

        • Yeah, I was thanking Eamon for giving me the term pintle for the attachment to the dragon saddle. It can be used freehand, in an emergency and the book I have says it’s virtually recoiless (which I’m NOT buying. It’s an antique book, I think their standards were different) but not on Dragon Back.

          • Still chambered for the .303 British round? Or a more American 30-30 or .30-06?

            • Eamon J. Cole

              30-06. Mass of the dragon and fixed mount alleviate recoil concerns…

              • Eamon J. Cole

                Extending it out, and tying in to stuff I said somewhere else around here:

                If I went with the Lewis in the American 30-06, I’d use a rifle in 30-06, like the M1903 Springfield. If there were production disruptions you could go with a lever-action in 30-06 (given dragon drag on tech not all your manufacturing is up to modern production, retooling for caliber is easier than retooling for a new design.), which gives you some plot potentials around reloads and loose rounds and what-not.

                But, common calibers because logistics.

                Concerning sidearms, I like the 1911. But I’d ditch it for more ammo for my rifle when counting weight.

                • Eamon J. Cole

                  In the realm of lever-action 30-06 I give you —

                  The Winchester 1895! Even has a (limited) military pedigree. Box fed to avoid that pesky spitzer issue!

                  I just like the obscure perversity of it.

                  And now I’m going to go do something else, lest someone think me obsessive.


                • You wouldn’t have the Springfield unless the Germans got around to the Mauser action before they were conquered. The Springfield was such an obvious ripoff of the the Mauser that the Feds were paying patent royalties right up until the start of WWI…

                  So… options? Krags? Springfields magically appear? US Enfields, as actually happened?

                  • Eamon J. Cole

                    Enfields would work.

                    Though, now I’m enamored of the Winchester 1895.


                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    While it may be harder for Sarah, let’s not worry about the names of the weapons as weapon development will be completely different in this world.

                    Our weapon development involved human vs human warfare but this world’s weapon development involves human vs dragon warfare.

                    While Sarah has said that the over-all tech level (in their 2014) is closer to 1914-18 tech level, under these circumstances, humans may develop certain types of weapons “earlier”.

                    What the humans of this world need are “rifles” (both human carried and dragon “mounted’) capable of bringing down dragons. For that matter, there may be a “market” for close range weapons (hand guns?) that would give dragons problems.

                    The weapons may not have familiar names but let’s think about the requirements for these weapons.

                    • Eamon J. Cole

                      If we wander off into wildcat cartridges along the lines of “what caliber for dragon” Sarah may shoot us with a mundane, boring, standard round she has handy in her desk.

                      ‘Cause that discussion could rapidly swirl down the rabbit hole.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard


                      I had a character in a “story still in my head” go into Monster Country (not dragons but very large intelligent predators) with a weapon just called Monster-Killer (brand name).

                      I’m not planning to go into details about it just saying that it’s a weapon made to give humans a “fighting chance” against these predators.

                    • Any universe that contains an Utah will contain a John Moses Browning. Imagine what he could have accomplished with an unlimited was department budget and the spur of the dragon war.

                    • Though having “it’s like the x” helps, for me to get books on them and descriptions.

                    • I would think a .577 Tyrannosaur would double nicely as a dragon cartridge.

                      Although after Miss Winter picked herself up after firing one, she would be likely to beat me with the rifle. (not shoot me, because she wouldn’t want to fire it again.) for recommending it.

                    • Wouldn’t they be likely to have developed target specific weapons, such as harpoons that deploy wing-fouling nets/ribbons?

                    • The idea of an anti-dragon handgun makes me think of the Doorknocker from the Pumpkin Scissors animé series. Shadowdancer are you familiar with that one?

              • Or, as Ordnance calls it, Caliber .30, Ball, M1; Cartridge, Ball, Caliber .30 M2 (lighter bullet); AP (Armor Piercing) M2 (black tip); M1 Incendiary/Alternate Incendiary (blue tip); M25 Tracer (aviation) (orange tip)…

          • Lewis not recoilless, even with the brit .303 never mind the .30-06.

            • Yes, I figured from the tone of it that it was an exaggeration and also probably colored by the time.

            • The heavy water jacket greatly reduced perceived recoil.

              • Lewis guns were not water-cooled. Vickers and Brownings, yes, which offered them longer sustained bursts of fire: Sarah could use that as a note of authenticity if the dragons start brawling in range of ground fire.

                • I thought the Lewis had a can, I’m probably confusing it for the Vickers. They did fire the same round.
                  Sarah you know both of these are British manufactured right? You may need to dance through some hoops to get them locally made.

              • Eamon J. Cole

                The Lewis is air-cooled, the jacket focuses air travel. Makes it notably lighter and easier to deal with than the water-cooled guns.

              • heavy water jacket“?

                Are we talking nuclear here?

                • Yep a nuke amped lewis throwing depleted uranium .30-06 tracers that prodice a one ton range detonation in the target. 😀

                  • Picking a nit, here (No, that never happens on this site, does it? Shut up and get on with it!), Depleted Uranium is isotopically purified to be almost completely U-238, thus minimizing dangerous radiation and being useless for bomb-making.

                    • THAT’S the not you chose to pick!?!
                      Nothing else about that sentence bothers you?

                    • On the blog of a Sci-Fi (among other things) author? I’m not sure what “nuke-amped” would imply, but it’s the kind of not-directly-contradicting-anything term that would qualify as “science fiction-y”.

                      The Depleted Uranium .30-06 tracer rounds? I’m pretty sure those already exist.

                    • They might exist but Cabelas won’t sell them to me. The BATFE can just get stuffed.

                    • We tend to ignore typos around here, unless they are punworthy.

                      Although now that you mention it, why would you use tracers on a detonating round, wouldn’t the detonations be suffiecent visual confirmation of where your rounds were going?

                    • Well you could get more in the clip.

                      I was trying to get all the hippy dippy demo gun nuke crap I could in one sentence.

          • Also, you’ll need a traversing guard, which is basically a curved pipe, which keeps you from shooting your dragon in the back of the head. I expect that annoys them.

        • You could also set your pintle on a ring mount, which lets you traverse your gun 360° or however far your pilot can twist in his saddle…

  18. Contact either MadMike or Larry C., for details on appropriate guns/ MM would almost certainly know.

  19. On the subject of battle-rifles, the French issues early Winchester semi-autos (in .405 calibre) to their aviators before machine guns were tried on planes. You could issue those (and the Remington Model 8 semiauto) in serious large game calibers to your fliers, for use as appropriate.

    • .500 nitro for a serious rhino hunting round. Check out Teddy Roosevelt’s load out for his African safaris if you want a solid list of big game rounds and rifles for the period.

      • Would the classic British big game nitro loads exist in this world? How much big game hunting done with Africa and India under dragon domains? Or would America be limited to the classic buffalo loads? A .50-110 Nitro load would be fairly scary, I should think (You’d need a massive rolling block or falling block to handle it though).

        • A repeating version of the Sharp’s. 45-110?

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Big Game hunting loads could be developed independently in the US once the war started. After all, the “Big Game” is coming after humans instead of humans going looking for “Big Game”. [Evil Grin]

        • Some scientist/military researcher might have developed dragon loads?

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard


          • Query: what’s the efficacy of a dragon minus rider in aerial combat? If low, or at a serious disadvantage, I’d be working the soft target. Once the rider’s dispatched intact pairs coordinating against the dragon would have the upper hand.

            Just looking at the tech limitations, scaling up from anti-personnel to anti-materiel (large caliber suitable for dragon) introduces significant weight in mounts, guns and ammo. It also takes hip fired largely off the table (unless, as noted elsewhere, your dragons are abnormally strong in human form).

            This, and everything else, is of course tossed out so you can pick and choose to match your plot. All kinds of fun ways to push the tech in one direction or another…

            • While getting a pilot works great, the plane is a far easier target, so that is what is aimed at. I see no reason why Dragons would be any different.

              • For the same reason that many attackers wanted the knight to die but the horse to live — to keep the mount for themselves.

                • questionableprovenance

                  Not analogous. Horses can be broken to a new rider. Highly unlikely that dragons could be. That would be tantamount to treason: think capturing an enemy general staff officer and putting him to work for you in your general staff.

              • Platform difference. In general, fighter pilots were stuck with a limited traverse weapon (there’s variations, saw some pictures of a fore-aft arc mechanism, allowing the pilot to aim upwards as he flew under opposing planes) and needed to aim the plane to get shots.

                In this case, with a pintle mounted weapon and the ‘aircraft’ piloting itself, your gunner is more akin to a Humvee gunner. Especially with a crazy pilot willing to come out of the seat and sit on the neck of the dragon to fire backwards (I keep trying to picture a pintle ring set-up on a saddle. Awkward. Besides, wouldn’t it be exciting if the rider unstrapped to crab around the pintle and sit on the neck! Makes 6 o’clock a little hairier…). Anyway. (Sheesh.)

                With any given flight path, your rider has multiple firing lanes. Since, much like planes, there are a limited number of places to successfully engage a dragon (flank shots hurt, but they don’t penetrate {or similar}) and dragons are disinclined to make those easy shots you’re going to have to be good at putting rounds in fairly limited areas.

                Given these, with dorsal targets, go for the head and/or rider. They’re roughly co-located, good shots on either degrades the performance of the enemy, and the rider is nice and squishy.

                Or so go my completely unfounded (not my universe) tactics. We’ve got a few airhead types around here, wonder what the pilots think?

                • Tend to agree with you on target choices, unless you are firing a round that will reliably penetrate deep enough on a dragon. In which case the center-mass shot on the dragon becomes primary. After all, get the dragon at any height at all, and you are virtually guaranteed a kill on the rider also.

                  I also pictured the rider swinging themselves around the pintle to fire to the rear; but couldn’t picture how the rider would feasibly hang on while clambering around to the neck of the dragon, while the dragon was maneuvering to avoid being shot down by the bogey on his six. Best I could come up with was the rider actually bellying down under the barrel and firing the gun essentially blindly (if firing tracers he/she could conceivably look over their shoulder and adjust from where the tracers were flying. This would be ah, rather difficult) overtop of themselves at the enemy behind them. Alternatively the rider could jerk their carbine out of the scabbard and twisting around in the saddle fire behind them with it. As ineffective as that is likely to be, it would probably be more effective than the former method.

                  By the way, shooting from dragonback brings a whole new meaning to the term wing-shooting. 🙂

                  • From a story perspective, rounds that reliably get deep penetration on dragons shoot holes in plot potentials…

                    Yeah, the rider moving out of the saddle makes aft shots iffy. I kinda picture a leg hook/brace set up on the saddle. You hook your thigh under one and then pull your calf up against another. This allows the rider a way to use the strength of their legs to shift weight in the saddle and maneuver the gun, gives them an attachment point to keep them in the saddle as the dragon banks or rolls, and would let them get free with relative ease. (There’s some similar things on trick saddles, but I’m not terribly familiar.)

                    From there I was thinking about the “tailgunner” riff we had going the other day, and how that would come about. So, how do you train a dragon rider/gunner? Tethered balloons, course in three dimensions the dragon must fly, gunner engages balloons as they come into range. At some point our hero and heroine are running the course, and she misses the last balloon. She’s a little pissed, thinks she can get the damn thing, shimmies out of the braces and holds on to the pintle as she worms her way around to sit straddling the neck. Shooting back across his back she nails the balloon, but gets a round or two into his tail at the end.

                    This gets us “Tailgunner” which is both mocking and an acknowledgement that’s she’s just a bit crazy/brave/ambitious. It can also get her yelled at by everybody because the only thing she had to hold on to at that point is the gun/pintle.

                    My canted brain, I work up fan-fic for stories not yet published. For any uninitiated/lurkers this is all WAG and rampant speculation having nothing to do with the actual book. I’m sure Sarah has a round file.

                    Wing-shooting: *snort-chuckle*

          • You better believe it. The prospect of being dragon chow focuses the mind wonderfully. With all R&D aimed at the war effort, anti-dragon loads for both the lewis and your backup would be the norm.

            • On that note take a look at how far and how fast weapon tech advanced just between 1861 & 1865. How long has this war been going on, again?

                • One of the problems with machine guns is the issue of weight and recoil. This is beyond the issue of maintenance. (Lewis guns have a lot of parts that have to be just right to work, so they are bad in mud) A water jacket and heavy equipment take up lift and power that could be used for more ammo or extra speed. Heavier recoil means more bracing which also takes up weight. Also, concussion and recoil may also hurt the dragon.
                  I would consider that even a magical being had limited carrying capacity and beyond a certain point the extra weight will tend to reduce the range and speed. I don’t see that the dragon would be the best heavy bomber for example.
                  The alternate might be rocket pods.Rockets have very little recoil for the punch they can deliver. The French, for example, tried using black powder rockets against Zeppelins. (The rockets were more of an on-the-ground, let’s try this out thing.) Metal channel iron was bolted to the struts of the standard biplane, and signal rockets were attached. The pilot would line up on the Zep and launch the rockets. The idea was that the flaming exhaust would ignite the Hydrogen lift gas.
                  This was a variation on another anti-Zeppelin technique of having a rocket battery in a truck to chase after Zeps. (One Zeppelin captain realized that he kept taking fire fire from the ground and it kept chasing him, so he stopped using a road to navigate by.) The rockets were not useful against other planes because the rockets were not guided and were only sort of aimed, but against a target the size of the Ark there was a good chance of hitting.
                  However, If you can record a spell for leading it to an enemy, then your rockets would have guidance.

                • Then the buffalo guns would never have fallen out of production. The Sharps rifle company many some solid weapons

          • I would think it inevitable. Is there a large animal for which man hasn’t developed a rifle round?

            • Eamon J. Cole

              Just spinning thoughts here as they burbled up while I was away reading a book.

              I’ve talked a lot about the 30-06 as a reference because it was available in military weapons in the time period, but — dragons (and the consequent delay of tech). So it’s not going to be a 30-06, but maybe it’s a 30-71 (introduced in 1971, taking advantage of the newer high-pressure chambers and the latest powders), and over the intervening years there’ve been incremental advances, largely powder improvements and bullet design (some metallurgy). Certainly there are a plethora of cartridge designs out there, but the military is sticking with a proven design. It’s not the absolute best round for fighting dragons, but it’s serviceable and meets some logistical requirements. You also need something that can affect dragons but isn’t wasted energy on humans. Resources being what they are, you default to the minimum that gets the job done. They’ve got heavier weapons for specific roles, but the drawbacks keep them out of the dragon corps.

              There’s also the very real consideration of institutional knowledge. When your military is made up of people who’ve been using ‘x’ their entire careers, shifting systems in the middle of a prolonged war can be difficult. Incremental adjustment to known systems is common, at least until there’s a significant breakthrough in tech.

              There are strong reasons why the 30 caliber rounds have seen so much development in our own timeline, and why they’re so versatile (even in mm incarnations). There’re also strong reasons why cartridge designs from before the turn of the 20th are still in use. And there are solid technological limitations for employing exotic dragon-buster rounds in military fielded weapons (At least widely. Specialty units, specialty weapons.)

              Development of various actions isn’t likely to stray far afield. There are a few specific ways of accomplishing the job, with lots and lots of little variations.

              I like the Lewis, even though I know it’s not going to be precisely like our Lewis. But a guy named Lewis, later down the time-stream maybe, saw the same need and had a similar idea. It gives me, as a reader, a touchstone. As a gun-nut it gives me a fond connection. I’d call it a nod to the readers, a little “this isn’t our world, but you can see it from here” gesture. The 30-whatever does the same thing.

              This gives the readers something they can hang their hat on while they dive into the story.

              Anyway, those’re my late night thoughts on the subject. I’ve had a real blast seeing what folks come up with, and why. I’m excited to see what Sarah pulls from it and where the story goes.

              Now. I’m for bed.

          • Also, if humans are in a fight for survival, the Geneva Convention isn’t going to happen. That would mean hollow points and exploding bullets would definitely be on the battlefield.

      • I don’t have my book quickly at hand, but you might look at Karamojo Bell’s book about hunting elephants for some more ideas and calibers/loads. And “African Rifles and Cartridges” by John Taylor. He field tested various things (German, British, American). It can be a “wee bit” technical, though. But if you have heavy infantry specialists that are assigned to take care of downed enemy dragons . . .

        • Eamon J. Cole

          Hm. Is it advantageous for a downed dragon to remain in dragon form? Particularly given enemy infantry? Strength/resilience/natural offensive weapons vs large target with no supporting elements…

          Outfitting your infantry you have to balance weight/capacity vs probable threat. Most infantry targets are other infantry, with occasional heavies. So standard infantry rounds for most, with heavy weapons squads carrying big-game guns? Heftier cartridges limit the available action types (pressure questions) with the tech level, thus impacting rate of fire and capacity.


          Off the cuff, as a dragon, I think when grounded I’d tend toward shifting for various advantages. If prevented from this because of injury or such, I’d look for fixed positions to defend. Lone heavies are at a distinct advantage against infantry forces, too hard to guard your flanks and rear against multiple attackers. And your rider is going to be vulnerable to more mundane rounds.

          In the case of the enemy, both are shifters, so this might change things. When one is grounded, can they swap and get back airborne?

          If I’m infantry working against grounded dragons, I’m going to aim for scouting and calling for indirect. Hard to get killed by a grounded dragon when he doesn’t know you’re there.

          • If severely hurt they return to human. Takes effort not to.

          • WWI era tech means you’re not calling anything. No personal radio gear. The height of the artillerymen’s art is the creeping barrage. No armor either. Tank were first fielded at Cambrai in 1918

            • Are there various sizes of dragons? Small dragons with semaphore-waving riders would greatly extend line-of-site communication. Could also act as couriers.

              Also, what proximity is required for telepathic human-dragon communication? Is range is sufficient, you have your artillery observer right there.

            • Eamon J. Cole

              D’oh! Crossed my time streams…

            • You can call because of dragon-to-dragon telepathic link, of sorts. It’s rather faint and unreliable. BUT the biggest problem is your mates finding you and risking themselves to rescue you.

        • The 45-70 was an infantry round in the 1800’s, I could see it being retained in more powerful actions (such as the Browning lever guns available in WWI chambered for it, or bolt guns like the Springfield) if a larger caliber was needed for use against dragons.

          • The .45-70 had around 1700 ft-lbs of energy in its lead bullet form. The .30-06 had 2500 ft-lbs of energy when first issued, later 2700 ft-lbs.

            I know which I’d prefer for dragon plinking….

            • Yeah, but that .45-70 round had awesome penetration, which you need to reach the vitals on something the size of a dragon.

              For the same reason, you wouldn’t be messing around with hollowpoints. A solid round-nose or conical bullet to dig deep: stopping power on something that size is out of the question anyway.

              Maybe for a handgun a variant on the S&W .38-44 Heavy-Duty revolver that preceded the .357 magnum, though in a slightly larger, heavier bullet. A .40-44?

              • Actually I specifically use the 45/70 for its LACK of penetration compared to rounds like the 30-06. This is in large part due to the bullet used though, I use a heavy flat-nosed expanding bullet, lots of knockdown, because all the energy is dumped in the target, without overpenetration. If you use solids or heat-treated bullets however, you can get some spectacular penetration. I have experimented with using heat-treated cast lead 500 gr bullets (loaded at around 1700 fps) and was getting over 40 inches of penetration in seasoned, tight-grained old growth tamarack. Compare that to 7-8 inches using expanding (either cast [wheel weight] bullets or Remington Corelocs) 405 gr. bullets. The heat treated bullets looked like you could reload them when they were dug out, while the Corelocs were the size of a fifty cent piece, and the regular cast 405s just a little smaller.

                SPQR, note that I stated that I could see it being retained in “more powerful actions”. Whereas I commonly shoot 405 gr bullets at about 1600 fps and that pencils out to 2300 ft-lbs (mainly because I need to push the Corelocs that fast in order to get them to expand properly, the cast bullets expand nicely at 1320-1400 fps which is in the 16-1700 ft-lbs you quote. However I got tired of changing powder loads, and since there is no appreciable difference in felt recoil, I now generally load my cast bullets the same as the jacketed 405s, and actually get about an extra 20 fps out of the cast loads, so they are a shade higher in energy). The loads I use are very safe to use in the 1886 Winchester and 1895 Marlin leverguns (and also the Browning, I don’t recall its model number). Now if you were to chamber them in a bolt action you could probably safely use loads up to 40,000 C.U.P., such as those listed for the Ruger No. 1. Those loads can be pushed up close to 4200 ft-lbs.

                All that being said, kinetic energy isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to caliber selection, big heavy bullets tend to outperform faster lighter bullets of the same to somewhat higher kinetic energy numbers. There have been numerous formula’s devised to attempt to formulate which caliber is better/or the minimum for which game, none have been entirely satisfactory. No formula I have ever known has accurately predicted the results when used on game over a wide range of cartridges. Experience trumps them all.

                From my experience, I would choose the 30-06 over the 45/70 at range, due to it’s flatter shooting characteristics, but if I need to stop something big up close, in its tracks, I’ll take a flat-nosed bullet in the 45/70 every time, even at the comparably anemic loadings suitable for trapdoor rifles.

                • I wonder what you’d get if you used a bullet with a construction similar to the old 7.62×39 “steelcore” for the AK-47? Jacketed soft bullet around a tungsten penetrator like the “silver bullet” for the Abrams.

                  On another note; we sure are upsetting the NSA analyst assigned to watch this board. So much concentrated firearms and explosives knowledge free flowing amongst committed constitutionalists. I hope he gets an ulcer.

    • Nitpick. The semi auto Winchester fired 401. 405 Winchester was a lever action round.

  20. questionableprovenance

    I am amazed how the most innocuous topics on this blog generate comment threads of graduate-school-seminar erudition and intensity. [Of course, I am referring to graduate schools of my time, before the Vietnam era takeover of the Universities.]

  21. questionableprovenance

    I also note that you may be using this blog and comment thread to avoid getting to work on your NaNoWriMo project[s]

  22. OK.

    Just to be eeeeeevil.

    Bulldog Gatling in .45-70, 400-grain plus solid spitzer boattail bullet, loaded to full military pressure…

    And Sarah, don’t forget, as an Ace author you must explain how the gun works every three or four pages, just like John Ringo with the SheVa gun…

  23. Late to the party, but:

    You already know that I have liked your previous dragon stories. This one starts well and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

    And, BTW: like the autumnal banner.

  24. A Youtube video of a Lewis gun. Has some nice angles on it that show the cooling fins under the barrel jacket, and how the magazine is loaded.