“Incorrect,” said Count Uri, “Segei and I found just one Egg. Next to Guardian’s Faberge Egg, in study. Our Dragon brought us both through. Strong breath, big hole.”
“Oh,” said Gareth, wanting to laugh and fancying it was Sergei who looked at his brother rather jealously now. “Then that makes five.”
The mute boy was shaking his head too though.
“We were asking him,” said Sergei, “about eggs. It seems he was never finding one. Just his dragon on ground, under tree. It took hours to be finding out.”
“Four then,” said Gareth, frowning.
“Well, now they’re all gone,” said Sao Cheung, on Gareth’s left, looking mournfully into the darkness, “I feel kinda lost without her. I guess I miss her.”
All the others seemed to agree, as the open cart rattled on, with the children shivering in the back, and as night got deeper, Sarissa began to doze. They were all exhausted and Gareth was lost in thought, wondering if he should pull the pieces of the burnt book from his pyjama pocket, to try and learn more of this strange realm.
But it was too dark to read anyway, and as the fear of those awful Wraiths dwindled behind them, he stated to wonder who these Dragon Warriors were, what Pendolis was like, or when they would ever get there.
Gareth found his eyes drooping too, as Sarissa’s head suddenly rested wearily against his shoulder. She was fast asleep. The 12-year-old shivered, but it felt nice, as Count Uri gave him a cold look.
His twin brother had pulled his slippered feet out of the purplish water, though the strange rain had stopped, and now was hunched up, trying to keep warm without his blanket. Gareth saw the gold crest on his slippers more clearly now. The Oblormov Crest was a double-headed eagle, standing on a rock. The mute boy was asleep too, but even now, he kept a tight hold of his satchel.
They must have travelled on for hours, and Gareth drifted in and out of dreams, of London and his mum and step father, when the cart jolted on a stone. Sarissa woke, but pulled back immediately, clearly embarrassed to have slept against Gareth’s arm.
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
The night was deep and now the sky was illuminated by a giant full moon, low on the horizon. Gareth stirred and saw that the landscape had changed completely. The meadow and Dark Wood were gone and now they had entered a kind of hard gravel desert, a cheerless, flat orange landscape, interspersed with what looked like huge blueish cactuses.
The ground was not level though, because to the right and left they started to see great, open fissures in the earth, like a badly cracked and dried out flower bed. They looked decidedly dangerous and Gareth was glad they were on a clear path, although to his horror he fancied that in the distance one of those open chasms snaked round and ran right across the track they were following.
The whole army train had slowed, to a fast march, but their cart driver clearly wanted to spare his horse, because they were at the back of the train now, surrounded by weary stragglers on foot, and two of those Cross-bearing soldiers.
Sao Cheung suddenly pointed. To the right of the track they were following, a great boulder reared up. Except that as they got closer they saw it was more like a carved obelisk, with runes scored into it, as though they had been cut there with flame. This is what it said.
THE PAINTED DESERT – HERE BE DRAGONS
“Thank the heavens,” grunted the cart driver, “Nearly made it.”
‘Made it?” said Gareth, in surprise, because beyond, the moonlit desert opened out even more and the track snaked on and on, into an almost impossible distance, fringed with those fearsome, snow capped peaks that he had seen when he had first turned round in the meadow.
They all felt sick, as they looked at that vast expanse, and wondered how they would ever cross it. Apart from the barrenness of it all, it seemed so terribly exposed to attack. The moonlight was bright now though, and something began to warm in the children’s blood, although they all felt desperately hungry. Their cart driver seemed to sense it, because the huge man chuckled and sat up straighter.
“Be eating soon enough,” he cried, “a nice hot breakfast broth, with loads of fresh barley bread.”
“Mmmm,” said Sao Cheung, whose tummy was rumbling.
“And a barrel of WarBrew. Though it’s supposed to be strictly for Dragon Warriors.”
“I’ll be a Dragon Warrior, one day,” whispered Gareth suddenly, and as Sarissa and the twins looked at him rather coldly, he blushed and felt stupid.
“Not some-at to be messing with, lad,” cried the man, with a laugh, “many fall in the training, and even more in the wars. Nothing so pointless as the hunt for glory. You’d do better to keep yer ‘ead down in Pendolis, and find some honest work.”
His words about food, and his tone had cheered them, though Gareth wondered if he wasn’t a little mad. But he had just noticed the mute, weasel faced boy’s satchel and in the half-light it definitely twitched. Even as it did they saw the gravel around the cart begin to ripple like wind stroked grass.
“Dragon-sign,” cried one of the soldiers on horse back, in a quaking voice, and just for a moment Gareth wondered if he was dreaming, because ahead he had just thought he had seen the turret of the Houses of Parliament, back in London, in the middle of the strange orange desert. It was a trick of the light, except the moonlight or the moon suddenly seemed to have been cut in half, and a shadow was flapping out of it.They heard the scream, that wasn’t a scream, but a kind of strangled roar and the driver turned his head. The others were now looking back in absolute horror. The thing that came out of the full moon was the size of Gareth’s Dragon, at first, but it came towards them so fast, and grew so quickly, soon its wings and waving clubbed tail obscured nearly the whole disc.The trumpets were suddenly blaring, the war drums beating and as one the train began to hurtle forwards.
“We’ll make it,” cried the cart driver. “We must.”
“He’s crazy,” whispered Sao Cheung. “Make it where?”
“The enemy,” cried the soldier who had spoken first of Dragon sign, as the grit and gravel began to swirl in the growing wind, and spit into their eyes, “it serves the Black Warlock, all right. A scout.”
They could see it fully now, the approaching dragon, a hundred times the size of their little FireCutters, the size of two London Buses on the wing, its great, leathery wings open like a Pterodactyl’s, and two globes of steely blue for eyes. The dragon’s shadow grew, as men and women screamed, terrified of tripping on the track and hurtling forwards, into the looming middle distance.
“Shouldn’t we stop and hide under the cart,” said Gareth, “or turn back”.
“The Seer Guard,” cried the driver desperately, “The Seer Guard will save us. It’s our only hope.”
Gareth expected to see an army of brave Dragon Warriors riding out of nowhere to protect them, but ahead was only that barren desert.
“Oh what’s the idiot talking about,” cried Sarissa helplessly.
The cart was trying to reach the others, to keep up, but now Gareth gasped. Ahead half the armed train had suddenly vanished, as if they had tipped off the edge of a cliff. They all thought of those terrible fissures in the ground.
“Stop,” cried Sarissa, “Please stop.”
But the attacking Dragon was on them. It screeched again, enormous in the sky, and upturned backwards in the air, so they could see its spiked tail hanging down like a giant grey black pendulum, and its huge clawed legs, grasping onto thin air.
It opened it mouth to reveal a black, lizard-like tongue, and then coughed at them. Where they expected to see a jet of Dragony fire though, something extraordinary happened. The flame that shot from its mouth was a blue-white, like a stream of churning water, and as it hit the soldier, rearing in mid-air, he and his horse suddenly stopped dead. They had turned into a rearing statue.
“Awesome,” gulped Sao Cheung, but he burst into tears.
“But Dragons,” gasped Sarissa, “they spit fire. What’s going on?”
“Guardian would be knowing,” said Uri gravely, “is freezink prey. Like ice jet. Scientific.”
“The Teller,” cried Gareth though.
“Teller?” said Sarissa irritably.
“Yes. The Teller’s wounded, so things are going wrong in Blistag, like that horse’s ears. That must be it. It’s fire has turned to…”
“Don’t talk no rot about no wounded Teller,” snorted the cart driver, lashing the reins, “That’s an Ice Dragon. The nastiest of their kind. They come from the deepest Snow Caves, in the Blighted Mountains, yonder, and if you’re hit by their blasted breathe you haven’t a …”
As if to confirm it, the Ice Dragon screamed and spat again, and this time its icy draught hit two running women and an old man, and froze them solid. Everyone was screaming now, in the shadow of the enormous beast, crying out and running or riding faster, into the middle of nowhere. But the Dragon suddenly turned on the air and sped upwards into the moonlit sky.
“Is going,” cried Sergei, in relief.
“No such luck,” snorted the driver, “It’ll attack now, from a height and use it’s teeth. It’s got the smell of warm blood, and Ice Dragons smell like none other.”
“Then we’re lost,” moaned Sarissa, “Oh, I wish I’d never found that horrid egg in the first place. I want my tennis lesson.”
“Not lost, yet, lass,” said the driver gravely, “If we can just get into Pendolis in time.”
“Oh what’s he talking about?”
“The Seer Guard,” cried Gareth suddenly, “it’s not soldiers at all. Look.”
The children were all squinting now and they saw it, flickering out of that moonlit desert ahead, for only a few seconds, in a haze or mirage, the image of a great Citadel, lit by burning torches, like a thousand stars, a mass of stony turrets and castellated fortifications, on a kind of raised mound, there in the middle of The Painted Desert, before it vanished again into thin air.
“Of course,” said Gareth, “The Seer Guard’s a sort of magic cloak, to hide Pendolis. It is here then. Close/”
“Hide it from Dragon Eyes, the enemy and the Black Warlock,” snorted the driver approvingly, “He has no power beyond the Seer Guard. No enemy Dragons, nor Wraiths, Hormunculai, nor evil can penetrate it, when it’s down. But close your eyes tight, when I give the word, and just believe. It’s the only way you’ll pass safely. The Dragoman knows you’re coming, we sent word ahead, but you musn’t look back.”
Hope had suddenly touched them all, though they hardly understood, but the Ice Dragon was turning in the skies, wheeling like a gigantic Condor, and clearly preparing to attack again, as that image of Pendolis flickered and vanished. The haze was only a hundred yards away now, and almost the entire train had disappeared beyond it.
But the Dragon screamed again and was falling towards them, with a terrifying fury. They saw those cold, dead eyes, filled with hate, and the demon shape opened its dragon mouth to reveal vicious teeth, like ragged stalactites.
“Now,” cried the driver, “Shut yer eyes tight.”
They all did as they were told, not least because of their terror, and the horror of watching each other being plucked from the back of that cart and eaten alive. Believe, Gareth found himself whispering, hardly able to believe anything, but as he closed his eyes, rather than darkness, it was as if he was suddenly in the air, where he saw what looked like young Warriors, in golden armour, on Dragon Back, swooping out of the skies. He was amazed, not least because at the head of the flying army he thought he saw himself, no, his own dad, his real dad, except no more than eighteen years old, here in Blistag.
Gareth felt his heart fly and rather than the bite of teeth, they all felt a warm, rippling breeze across their skin, not cold, but welcoming, as if they were passing through a hot waterfall. They half expected to tip straight into one of those fissures, but the sensation lasted just a few seconds, as they heard the driver shout – ‘Made it’.
Now they heard a bitter, frustrated screech, as Gareth opened his eyes again. For a second, he saw a vision of that Ice Dragon spitting its freezing flame, that seemed to hit an invisible barrier and rise straight upwards, in a funnel of water, that turned to a column of solid ice, then vanished too. The huge Dragon and the ice spout were gone and now he was looking back at empty desert, as if nothing had been there at all.
The magical Seer Guard had clearly closed tight around Pendolis again, and suddenly the air felt different, the sinking moonlight softer, a sense of peace surrounding the children. Not only that, but the attitude of the train had changed completely. They heard laughter, and shouts up-ahead, and saw that riders had dismounted, and men and women were hugging each other and smiling.
They were approaching what seemed to be a kind of checkpoint, on the track, between two low, thatched buildings. Here the soldiers and men and women in the train, were showing their weapons and goods, being carefully inspected by other soldiers, who were no longer wearing those crosses, with their Fleur de Lis tips, but silver and gold coloured tunics.
It was what lay beyond that astounded them all though. Pendolis itself. The Citadel was magnificent, and if Gareth had thought he had seen that turret on the Houses of Parliament, it was far larger, and seemed to be made of silver and gold too, except it seemed to keep turning back to the colour of hard stone. It made Gareth think of Camelot. It looked about a mile away, on the top of a kind of mound, surrounded by a giant lake, something out of crusading legend, and fed by a great, dark river, running left and right.
“The Crak of Pendolis,” whispered the driver, in awe, “the great Citadel.”
The surrounding countryside amazed them too. The barren, Painted Desert had become thick pasture and meadow grass again, and in the distance they saw high wooden stockades, the size of football stadia. Through the slats they fancied they saw shapes, like elephants, lumbering around, or hunched asleep on the sward.
“Dragons,” whispered Gareth, “the Dragon training camp.”
The cart stopped at the checkpoint though, and suddenly the soldiers were eyeing them intently in the coming morning.
“The youngsters,” said the driver significantly.
“You’re to hurry them to the Great Keep,” said a guard, with a nod, “The Dragoman’s waiting to begin the season. Anything on them? We should search you”
“Give us a break,” sighed the driver, “they’re young uns, and beside, we just escaped an Ice Dragon.”
The soldier shivered, but grinned.
“Then on with you. Pendolis is marshaling, and there’s much to be done. We’re making careful checks, because they say the Black Warlock has dispatched a spy to infiltrate Pendolis, but it’ll be good to have some fresh blood. Lord Cracken will know what to do with them.”
None of them liked the remark at all, but as they rattled on, fast now through the others, who seemed to step aside to make way, the cheerful, homely air was infectious and soon they were all smiling. The moon had sunk completely, and the air was lightening rapidly, as the sun broke the horizon, which was of course ringed with that barren desert, and splinters of pink light spread across the sky.
They passed little villages now, and workshops, where blacksmiths making weapons in burning forges and a high, open barn, where they were amazed to see wooden slats, with huge eggs sitting on them, twice the size of Ostrich egss.
“What’s that?” said Sarissa.
“Dragon Hatchery, of course” grunted the driver.
“But the Eggs,” said Gareth, deciding he had a great deal to learn about dragons, “they’re huge.”
“Look quite small to me,” grunted the driver, with a shrug. “Not a good season then. The Buttersqueak harvest must have failed. It’s nigh two year since I was in Pendolis last.”
“But Dragon eggs aren’t huge,” said Gareth, “I mean they’re just like a chicken’s…”
“Why you talking Firecutters,” snapped the cart driver, almost fearfully, “FireCutter’s be the only Dragon eggs I know of that small. And FireCutters are strictly forbidden in Pendolis. Exceptional rare, and exceptional dangerous.”
“Yes,” said Gareth sourly, glancing at the others significantly, and feeling an ache again for his little Dragon,”of course.”
They were approaching the island citadel now and heard trumpets again, this time from the inside the Crak of Pendolis, its silver-gold walls blazing under a flash of sunlight, that were suddenly hard stone again, fluttering with colourful banners and waving flags.
Soon they had stopped on the edge of the water, edged with thick sedge and bulrushes, where the track suddenly ran out. They all gasped now, as they looked up. On the far side of the moat, the head of an enormous Dragon was scored into a wooden wall, in the middle of the stony fortress, that rose impossibly high, and at the top there seemed to be huge dragon claws of solid gold. This Dragon though was wearing a kind of armour, and a face visor, much like Mordellon’s.
They thought they were being attacked again, as they heard a groan and that Dagon face suddenly loomed towards them, but it was a drawbridge, lowered on huge metal chains, that came crashing down across the moat. As it did so Gareth thought he saw a shape, like a black back, rise in the moat and disappear again among the slimy weeds. Gareth was frightened, and thought of the flat in London, but in that moment the one person he suddenly wanted there was Pendelion Pummfrey.
It must have taken them ten minutes to cross that enormous drawbridge, and they were terrified by the gigantic stone arch they passed under now, worked with gargoyles, not only of dragons, but other strange mythical beasts. They rattled into a huge, cobbled courtyard, filled with labourers and soldiers, carts and horses. In one corner Gareth recognised that stallion with cows ears. The keep was enormous and lowering stone walls suddenly surrounded them on every side.
They felt like they were entering some prison, but to the right saw a long wooden balcony, with a wooden stairway leading up to it, below which hung shields, emblazoned with vivid coats of arms. On the balcony were ranged young men, perhaps between thirteen and eighteen, who seemed to be waiting expectantly. The young ones were wearing open beige jackets, like shamis leather, while the older ones had thick leather jerkins, with studs on, that made them look like dragon skin.
Ranged beneath the balcony was a line of adults. They were mostly men, with heavy arms crossed and they all wore half hoods, like medieval executioners. They were bare-chested and had lassoes at their belts, and Gareth noticed that their bare right arms had tattoos on them. He sensed they were some kind of trainers. There were three woman among the men too, who looked just as tough, though wearing leather jerkins and unhooded.
It was Sarissa who first noticed another gallery, to the East of the Keep, where there stood a group of girls, in elegant red velvet dresses, with high collars. The older ones had jewels, on silver chains, that they wore in the centre of their foreheads. One in the middle, about fifteen, had shining, raven black hair and was watching Sarissa intently. Gareth thought she looked so beautiful, prettier than Sarissa, like some eastern princess, but Sarissa was scowling horribly at her and clearly did not like being stared at.
A hush fell in the courtyard now, because a strange figure had just come striding through a gateway. He must have been six-foot seven, at least, thin but muscular, in a long brown coat, heavy black leather gloves and brown riding boots. He had a goatee beard and dark, searching eyes. A D was emblazoned on his chest.
“The Dragoman,” whispered Sarrissa Hallet.
The giant of a man strode into the centre of the Keep and turned to look back at the balcony. He lifted his arm and suddenly the whole side of the keep wall seemed to come alive. Images came out of the stones, of riders in black armour, riding huge black Dragons. Some of the watchers ducked, but they were only images, and they vanished again, leaving just bare stone, once more.
“The enemy is on the march,” cried the Dragoman, looking up at the balcony, “The Dragon Wars rage once more, and Blistag is in peril. Evil comes. But to our new friends, and our newest recruits, I give you the warmest welcome this season. Here, in Pendolis, safe in the Citadel, guarded by the Shield Guard, you shall begin your training, to be fearless Dragon Warriors. The greatest heroes of Blistag.”
The children noticed that some of the boys seemed very nervous.
“So, as you will learn from those who continue their training, you must see yourselves as the elite of Blistag’s fighters, against the growing forces of darkness. For only the young may Master Dragons. Until you are ready to do battle, you shall also enjoy the bounty of peace; comfort, food, learning and music, they shall all be yours. Here your mettle shall be tested though, and beware, the training camp has laws, as well as many dangers, and those laws you will obey to the letter, or your punishment will be as swift as Dragon Sign.”
Gareth remembered the Very Dangerous Book of Dragons and Universal Dragon Lore. It has seemed such fun at the time, like that little Firecutter in an egg box, but all this was rather more serious, and rather more real too.The Dragoman had stopped now though, for he had just noticed the cart, as the driver jumped down.
“My Lord Cracken,” he said, bowing deeply, not only to the Dragoman, but to the boys and girls, “These are the Outlanders we picked up on the way. They’re from beyond the Foundless Sea, all right, by the look of their attire.”
From the wooden gallery those boys, and young men, were suddenly watching intently, and Gareth and the other all felt rather embarrassed under their scrutiny.
“This one says he want’s to be a Dragon Warrior, my Lord,” added the driver, looking straight at Gareth, who tried not to blush.There was a peal of laughter around the Courtyard though, and poor Gareth suddenly felt horribly small and stupid in his pyjamas.
“Dragon Bait, more like,” said the Dragoman softly. “From the size of him, and from his strange…”
The Dragoman suddenly stopped and stepped forward.
“Don’t I know you, boy?” he whispered.
“Er, no Sir,” said Gareth, in surprise, “I don’t think so. I mean, you couldn’t.”
“No, indeed. Well get down now, all of you, and speak up for yourselves. Who are you?”
They climbed down onto the muddy cobbles, Sarissa and Sao Cheung, Gareth and the mute lad, then finally the twins. Gareth felt absurd in his bare feet, and the muck under his toes was rather smelly. At they climbed down too, the fourteen year olds stood straight-backed and looked up defiantly at the smiling of young Warriors. The quality of their pyjamas seemed to protect them, or give them a certain confidence.
“Your names,” said the Dragoman, “and don’t lie, or the Dragon Maidens will know it.”
The Twins announced themselves first, in their proud Russian voices, as the Counts Oblormov of Petersburg, and in the yawing courtyard you could have heard a pin drop. Sarrisa stepped forwards too, and was going to speak, but the cart driver looked at her in horror, and held her arm.
“Not till the boy’s is done, missy,” he hissed, “not here. This be a Warrior camp.”
Gareth noticed that raven haired maiden smiling knowingly, but Sarrissa looked absolutely furious. So Gareth, and then Sao Cheung gave their names in the Courtyard of the Crak of Pendolis. The Dragoman turned to the lad with the satchel now.
“You. Your turn.”
“He’s mute, Sir,” said Sao sadly.
“Perhaps the Teller took his tongue then,” said the Dragoman, not unkindly, “but no mute can join the fight, I fear. Dragon Warriors need their voices. We’ll find other work for you.”
Gareth wondered what he meant, but the boy in his school suit looked crestfallen and scared.
“Lord Dragoman,” said Uri suddenly, “we offer services here. The two of us. We’re fourteen.”
“And look strong enough to fight,” said the Dragoman approvingly, “While this seems a day for recognitions. Look at their feet. They carry Dragon Blood, all right, if that’s their mark.”
The Russian twins were looking in surprise at the crests on their slippers and blinking, but they both grinned proudly. That Double Headed Eagle on a rock was the same as one of the shields below the balcony.
“You’re fit to be tested as Dragon Warriors, indeed,” said the Dragoman, and the young men stirred on the balcony, but now the Dragoman turned to Sarissa, standing looking cross and resentful in her tennis outfit. Some of the girls on the balcony were whispering and Gareth thought he saw some very cruel looks, except for the raven haired Maiden, who was smiling thoughtfully.
“She might become a Dragon Maiden,” said Lord Cracken, almost to himself, “or serve them. But they’ll decide.”
“We have, my Lord Cracken,” said a voice, belonging to a tall, blond eighteen year old, “Test her first, below quarters, since we sense nothing special about her, and we must be careful. Especially if the Black Warlock sends spies to Pendolis.”
The Dragoman looked pensive, but it seemed these Maidens had influence here, because he simply nodded graciously.
“It shall be as you say, and see.”
“Serve,” hissed Sarissa, as Gareth wondered what he meant by seeing, “I’m Sarissa Hallet, of Hertfordshire, and I’m not serving any…”
“My Lord,” said Sergei though, “you must forgive our ignorance, but my friend is…”
“And you’ve a bold tongue,” said the Dragoman, “so be careful the others don’t take it out. You may have been given a chance, but you’ll have to prove yourself too, like any in Pendolis.”
Sergei blushed and fell silent.
“What about us, please?” whispered Gareth now.
The huge Dragoman turned and stared down at Gareth Marks.
“You?” he whispered, rather wearily, “Well, you’ve no sign of Dragon Blood, as far as I see, and no money I warrant, either.”
“Money?” said Gareth, feeling very small indeed, and wondering what this sign of Dragon Blood meant.
“Those exceptionally gifted make it here too, sometimes,” said the Dragoman, “from among the commoners. But how else do you think a young Dragon Warrior pays for his tunic and training, his weapons, and Dragon spurs? Gold. More gold than such stock as yours could steal, to buy a commission.”
The boys and young men were smiling and nodding, although Gareth felt this deeply unfair, and was furious that the stupid Dragoman had suggested he would ever steal anything.
“And this one’s too fat to ever be a Dragon Warrior,” said the Dragoman, looking coldly at Sao Cheung, “Strange eyes too. No. You’ll be sent back out beyond the Seer Guard, this very evening, to take your chances in the Painted Desert. We can take no chances now, with strangers.”
Gareth and Sao remembered that terrible Ice Dragon, horrified, but they suddenly heard a voice.
“My Lord Cracken.”
It was Mordellon, the soldier with the strange horse, who had carried Gareth to the train. He was walking slowly across the Courtyard towards them.
“I believe the boy’s all right,” he said, as he reached them, “Gareth of the Mark.”
The trainee Dragon Warriors looked a little more impressed now.
“He might be of some use in the Wars, or around Pendolis. He has spirit, I sense it. Fire.”
The Dragoman looked decidedly irritated, yet there was something teasing flickering in his eyes, as he stroked his beard.
“Very well, Mordellon, but you’ll answer for him.With your life.”
Mordellon smiled and nodded, then gave Gareth a wink, as the cart driver began to splutter.
“My Lord, it’s been a hard road, and I’ve a wife to care for. Perhaps for my pains, some…”
“Favour?” said the Dragoman, pulling a bag from his belt, “everyone seeks favour in Pendolis. But very well.”
He threw the driver a coin, but the Dragoman had just noticed the mute’s satchel, and something inside move.
“Open it,” he thundered immediately.
Gareth felt sorry for the weasel faced stranger, who was shaking his head furiously.
“I said open it, BOY.”
Very gingerly he obeyed, half opening the flap of the case, and Gareth and the Dragoman saw the quiver of a green, leathery wing inside, as the Dragoman’s gloved hand pushed the satchel shut, and tore it from the boy’s grasp too.
“A Firecutter” he roared, and there was a horrified gasp from the young Dragon Warriors and Maidens. “A Firecutter in Pendolis. It could play havoc with the Seer Guard.”
“The Prophecy,” whispered that blonde-haired Maiden, “Pendolis breached forever.”
“Seize him,” ordered the Dragoman, and two of those hooded trainers stepped forwards, “To the dungeons with him. Perhaps he’s this spy, but nothing a little experiment in seeing won’t reveal.”
They clasped hold of the poor lad, who started to struggle and moan. All he seemed to want was his satchel back, as Gareth remembered how his fiery little Dragon had protected him from his step dad. Inside the satchel, the dragon was struggling too.
They dragged the poor boy across the court-yard, but as they did, he suddenly looked in terrible pain, and opened his mouth and wailed horribly. The little dragon inside his satchel was flapping furiously, as the Dragoman held onto it, and again Gareth felt an ache in his heart for his vanished Firecutter. But the poor boy disappeared through that gateway, with a groan, and the struggling FireCutter fell motionless. Gareth was looking at the twins jealously, who were being escorted, rather respectfully, towards the stairs below the balcony, but two other trainers.
“Victual them and let them sleep a while,” ordered the Dragoman, turning back to the other three, “Then, to the kitchens, with the girl and those two.”
“Kitchens?” whispered Sarissa in horror, glaring almost hatefully at those girls in red.
“To cook for the Warriors and Dragon Maidens, Sir,” suggested Gareth hopefully, thinking of Dragon Chefs, and convinced you had to stand your ground in this place. It seemed as tough as being back at school.
“To clean and scrub, lad, like all scullies,” laughed the Dragoman, but he flashed Gareth a strange, piercing look too, that seared into his heart, “and if you prove yourselves worthy, to help prepare feed for our hungriest Dragons.”
End of Chapter Two
David Clement-Davies Copyright 2010 – All Rights Reserved Published by Phoenix Ark Press
The right of David Clement-Davies to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988
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