The beloved Dragonlance series returns this summer with Dragons of Deceit, the first book in a new trilogy of Dungeons & Dragons novels by creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Polygon sat down with the pair recently to discuss the book and the franchise they helped bring to life nearly 40 years ago. We can also share an exclusive excerpt — the first few pages from volume one of the Dragonlance Destinies series.
Dragons of Deceit begins far from the woods of Solace and focuses on a family that has likely never even heard of Otik and his legendary spiced potatoes. Its main character, Destina Rosethorn, comes from a noble lineage that makes its home far to the north in the land of Solamnia — soon to be the front lines in the coming War of the Lance.
“The wonderful thing, I think, about the Rosethorns,” Hickman told Polygon in an interview over Zoom, “is that they represent a completely different view of this war in that they are right in the middle of it. This isn’t something that’s happening in a very distant place. This is their home. This is their life.”
“The beautiful and predictive destiny I think that Destina has [...] is completely broken by these outside forces and events,” he continued. “Dragons of Deceit is very much about this idea that the destiny we are expecting for ourselves is not the destiny that awaits us, and how do we deal with that really crushing disappointment that that represents.”
Destina will not be alone on her journey through the land of Krynn, a fact that was made clear in late 2021 with the reveal of Dragons of Deceit’s cover by artist Philipp Urlich. The noblewoman stands proudly in the center of the frame, flanked by none other than Tasslehoff Burrfoot — one of Dragonlance’s original Companions. To her left is a new character, a mysterious dwarf named Wolfstone from the kingdom of Thorbardin. Behind them stands the equally mysterious copper dragon named Saber.
A synopsis of Dragons of Deceit was released several weeks ago and confirms that time travel will play a part in the narrative. Fans of the original novels will no doubt recognize the Device of Time Journeying, which played a central role in the Dragonlance Legends trilogy among others. Both Weis and Hickman commented on the power that time travel provides them as storytellers.
“I think the great thing about time travel is the exploration of what if,” Hickman said. “‘For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: It might have been!’ I think that, intrinsically, the idea of What could have happened? What might have happened if we made different choices? If different things had happened? What destiny would we have?”
“It lets you explore depths of the characters that otherwise you wouldn’t get,” Weis added with a hearty laugh, “because nothing ever goes smooth. Whenever you’re dealing with time travel and supernatural, magical things like that, you’re always tempting fate.”
Not long ago, the future of this new Dragonlance trilogy was itself in doubt. Weis and Hickman filed a $10 million lawsuit against Wizards of the Coast, which owns the Dragonlance intellectual property, in the fall of 2020 alleging breach of contract. That suit was settled in the winter of 2021, paving the way for the Dragonlance Destinies trilogy to proceed to publication.
“My working relationship with Wizards of the Coast was just excellent,” Weis told Polygon, emphasizing that she was ultimately given the creative freedom to write the book she and Hickman wanted to write.
“I think that it all comes out here in the end,” Hickman added. “The story that we have told is the story that we set out to tell, and it was the story that we really, very much wanted to bring to our fans and to the people who love Dragonlance. So, for us, the outcome really could not have been better.”
A new D&D adventure book, titled Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen, is also in development at Wizards. Weis and Hickman played no role in its writing or design. Dragons of Deceit comes out Aug. 2 and will be available at local booksellers and online. The writing duo add that the manuscript for the third and final novel in the trilogy has been completed and is in the first rounds of editing with their publisher, Penguin Random House.
Destina joined her father and mother in the solar after the midday meal. The solar was the most pleasant room in the castle, for the afternoon sun shone through the numerous windows, lighting it and filling it with warmth.
Atieno was in particularly good spirits. Among her people, a girl attained womanhood at the age of fifteen.
Gregory joined them, bearing a wooden box containing his gift. He grew more cheerful, as he always did when he was in his wife’s presence. He kissed her and wished her joy of the day she had given him his daughter, his happiness.
“What is my gift, Mama?” Destina asked.
Atieno presented Destina with a golden chain.
“Gold for the sun, for the sheaf of wheat, for the leaves in autumn,” said Atieno. “Gold for the goddess of the yellow star.”
Destina was not to be lured into more discussion of gods that did not exist. She hung the chain around her neck and thanked her mother.
Gregory presented his daughter with his gift: a silver chalice decorated with a kingfisher motif. The kingfisher bird, with its bright blue-sky and orange-fire plumage, had been chosen as the mascot for the knights by Vinus Solamnus, their founder. The kingfisher symbolized courage and hope, for it was said that on the day of the creation of the world, the bold kingfisher was the first bird who dared to take flight.
“For your hope chest, Daughter,” said Gregory.
“Papa, thank you! This is beautiful.” Destina flung her arms around her father’s neck and kissed him.
Gregory embraced her and then poured wine for himself and his wife to celebrate.
“Please, Papa, just a little for me in my new chalice?” Destina begged. “After all, Mama says that I am a woman today.”
She held out the chalice, and Gregory poured several swallows of red wine from the pitcher into the cup. Gregory and Atieno drank a toast to their daughter. Destina replied with thanks to her parents for giving her life and sipped the wine, admiring the chalice as she did so, turning it around and around in her hand. When she had finished, she handed the cup to her mother.
“You must tell my future in the dregs, Mama,” Destina said.
Atieno gazed into the chalice where the lees had sunk to the bottom.
“What do you see, Mama?” Destina asked.
To her astonishment, Atieno gave a cry of horror and flung the chalice away from her. The silver cup hit the stone floor with a resounding clang and rolled beneath a chest.
Atieno made a warding gesture with her hand and muttered a few words that Destina did not understand and presumed were what her mother termed “magic.” Atieno then jumped from her chair and ran from the room.
Gregory stared after her in concern. “What is wrong with your mother? What did she say?”
“It seems Mama saw a bad omen in the dregs, and I believe she spoke a magic charm to ward off evil.”
“What was the omen about?” Gregory asked.
“I . . . um . . . couldn’t really understand her,” said Destina. “I will go speak to her.”
She went in search of her mother and found Atieno at the window in her bedchamber, gazing out at the bright blue sky above and burnished orange leaves below.
“Come look at the lovely colors, Destina. They are the colors of the kingfisher. Blue above and orange beneath.”
Destina was not interested in kingfishers or the colors of autumn. The Measure prohibited the belief in omens and portents, and Destina tried to obey, but she had so many questions and not one of the thirty-seven volumes of the Measure could answer them.
Atieno continued to gaze out the window. Destina saw tears on her mother’s cheeks, and she grew even more frightened. Destina had never in her life seen her mother cry.
“Mama, what did you see in the dregs?” Destina demanded.
“How can we face what is coming?” Atineo asked. “How can we bear it?”
She turned to face Destina and said softly, “My poor child . . .”
Destina took refuge in the Measure. “Mama, remember what the Measure says: ‘Paladine forges the sword, but man chooses how to wield it.’ That means each person is responsible for what he or she does in this life. The Measure also warns: ‘Trust not the soothsayer, for his words are lies to snare the unwary.’”
“And my people say: ‘The wolf is born to kill. The sheep is born to be killed,’” Atieno said, fixing her with shimmering dark eyes.
“Mama, please tell me what you saw in the chalice!” Destina said desperately.
“Bring the chalice to me,” said Atieno. “I will show you.”
Destina hurried to the solar to fetch the chalice. She had to get down on her hands and knees to retrieve it from beneath a chest. She returned to her mother and held it out to her.
Atieno recoiled, refusing to touch it.
“Look into it, Daughter, and tell me what you see.”
“Mother, you know I never see anything except dregs,” Destina protested.
“If you see, look!” Atieno insisted.
Destina sighed and peered into the cup, and this time she saw that the dregs had formed a recognizable pattern. She laughed and said before she thought, “Isn’t that funny, Mama. The lees are in the shape of a dragon. See, here is the tail and the head and the wings . . .”
She heard a strangled gasp and looked up at her mother. The blood had drained from Atieno’s face and lips, leaving her brown skin gray and leaden. “You saw the dragon! The same omen. I hoped I might be wrong, but you confirm it!”
“Mama, you are frightening me,” said Destina. “I saw the shape of a dragon. These are nothing but lees, the dregs, dead yeast. Here, I will show you!”
She dipped her index finger into the chalice and ran it around the inside. The dragon disappeared, staining her finger red. Destina lifted her finger to show her mother.
“There, Mama. You need not worry. The dead yeast is gone and so is the dragon.”
Atieno stared in horror at the red blotch on Destina’s finger. Then she sank into a chair, looking so ill that Destina shouted for her father.