From the Dragon Keepers' Vault

BOOK: From the Dragon Keepers' Vault
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2012 by Kate Klimo
Cover art copyright © 2012 by John Shroades

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

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eISBN: 978-0-307-97488-4

A Random House Children’s Books Ebook Original

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There were once two dragons named Leandra and Obsidian, who made their den in the side of a mountain. Leandra had scales and wings of a deep, rich red, the color of sugar maple leaves in autumn. Obsidian’s scales were luminous silver and his broad wings pale salmon pink.

This was during the days of the Gold Rush, when the land swarmed with prospectors greedy for riches. But the dragon couple lived in peace and plenty. For hundreds of years the local native tribe had worshiped the dragons’ mountain home, which they called the Old Mother, believing that two fierce, fire-breathing spirits lived there. To keep the spirits happy, on the third night following every full moon, the natives left the bodies of two freshly killed deer in a clearing near the foot of the mountain.

The native people were correct. This was a sacred place, for it was one of the few areas where the membrane between the four elemental realms—Airy, Fiery, Earthly, and Watery—was very thin. Still, it had always been a peaceful area, until a certain someone—driven by riches and power and the taste of dragon blood—came along to disturb the peace.

A bright red harvest moon had risen in the sky when a small delegation of tree spirits known as dryads came to visit Leandra and Obsidian.

“We come from the woodlands near the native village,” said their leader, a Douglas fir.

“These are hard times for the native people,” said Leandra sympathetically, for she and Obsidian had watched from the mountainside as the natives lost more and more of their age-old hunting grounds to the prospectors.

“These are hard times for all of us,” said the Douglas fir. “The miners probe our roots for gold nuggets, and the farmers hack us down to clear fields and build cabins. But we have not come here tonight to mourn our losses. We come to warn you, our cousins. We fear you are in grave danger.”

Obsidian blinked slowly at the dryad.

What did these dragons know of fear? Obsidian and Leandra had spent their entire lives on this mountain beneath the protective dome of its magic.

“A few weeks ago,” said the Douglas fir, “a man came to the village claiming to want to record the local native lore. The lore seeker had long, shimmering golden tresses and a golden mustache. In exchange for the lore, he offered warm blankets, and seashells from the great ocean to the west. The tribal chief did not like the looks of the man, so he sent the stranger packing.

“But the chief’s son had a daughter who was sickly, and he hoped that the warmth of the white man’s blankets and the magic from the seashells would cure her,” said the Douglas fir. “In desperation, the chief’s son ran after the visitor and told every tribal tale he knew. Only one story piqued the stranger’s interest: the tale of the two fierce, fire-breathing serpents guarding the treasure that lies in the heart of this mountain.”

Leandra and Obsidian looked at each other and smiled fondly. Neither of them had ever had cause to use their fire-breathing powers for anything more serious than lighting a fire. The gold nuggets in the mountain gave them strength, as all dragons draw strength from gold and precious stones. But treasure? They were each other’s greatest treasure.

The Douglas fir continued: “The stranger thrust the blankets and shells at the chief’s son and beat a hasty path back to the rooming house in Goldmine City. He packed up his few belongings and left on the stagecoach bound for San Francisco.”

“Just the other day,” said a Ponderosa pine whose tree shaded the rooming house, “the stranger returned to Goldmine City with five boxcars loaded with mining equipment. He is no lore seeker, but George Skinner, president of the Great Pacific Mining Company. Skinner bragged that he had laid a claim to the mineral rights on all the land hereabouts, including this

“George Skinner?” Obsidian murmured. The name seemed familiar. Where had he heard it before? Was it from the Time Before? Obsidian was much given to dreaming about the Time Before, when dragons flourished on the earth. Leandra and Obsidian were among the few survivors of that bygone age.

Leandra knew the name all too well. “For many hundreds of years, one man has been doing his utmost to slay us dragons and drink our blood. The blood of dragons gives him the one thing he wants even more than gold and riches—eternal life. He goes by many names, but we dragons know him best as St. George the Dragon Slayer!”

Obsidian reared up and cried, “So the day has finally come!”

“I am afraid so, my dear. Thank you for warning us,” Leandra said to the dryads. “Dragon magic will bar him from the mountain. So long as we remain here, we will be safe.”

The next day, the dragons saw St. George and his crew start up the mountain. But just as Leandra had said, dragon magic formed a shield that repelled them from venturing any farther than the foot of the Old Mother. St. George turned back in fury.

“You were right, my dear,” Obsidian said to Leandra as they watched from on high. “Dragon magic protects us. He will not bother us anymore.”

Leandra only hoped her mate was right.

Days passed and the dragons saw no further sign of St. George. On the third night following the full moon, Obsidian said to Leandra, “The woods are peaceful tonight. Let’s go down and receive the monthly gift.”

It was their habit to fly to the clearing where, near a bonfire set by the natives, Leandra and Obsidian would feast on the deer meat. But Leandra wasn’t hungry.

“I prefer to remain here,” she told Obsidian.

“Very well,” said her mate. “I will bring the deer meat back here so we can share it.”

“Beware of St. George,” said Leandra as Obsidian prepared to take flight.

“Don’t worry about me, my dear,” he said. “Dragon magic, dragon wiles, and dragon fire will protect me.”

Obsidian soared over the deep woods and touched down near the bonfire, next to which the freshly skinned deer lay. Obsidian stole a quick look around, grasped the deer in his talons, and flew back to the cave.

“I am glad you made it back safely, my dear,” said Leandra. “Please help yourself to my portion. I’m still not hungry.”

So Obsidian hunkered down on the stone shelf outside the cave and ate all the meat. He washed away the blood in the stream and then went into the den to bed down.

“Do you think the magic of the mountain will hold?” Leandra murmured to her mate.

“I imagine so,” said Obsidian through a wide yawn. He felt so
sleepy! Could it have been the double portion of deer meat?

“I have news for you,” Leandra whispered in the darkness. “I didn’t want to tell you until I was certain. Obsidian, I am carrying new life inside of me. You, my dearest one, are going to be a

She had expected Obsidian to be bursting with enthusiasm, but all she heard was his soft snoring. Leandra smiled. She would greet him with the happy news first thing in the morning. How pleased he would be!

The next morning, Leandra reached over to waken her mate. She shook him. She jostled him. She begged him, first in a whisper and then in a roar. But Obsidian slept on. She went
outside the cave and paced. It was not like Obsidian to sleep so late. And then she stopped and went still as a stone.

Someone slipped a sleeping potion in the deer meat!

And who else could that someone be but St. George?

Like most dragons, she was acquainted with the power of herbs and plants, so she waited until darkness fell. Then she flew down to the deep woods in search of the berries that, when steeped in boiling water, would rouse her mate.

She had just wrapped the berries in a large leaf and was returning to the den when the woods around her exploded. A net crashed over her head. Men with torches swarmed down the tree trunks and surrounded her.

One of them prodded her through the netting with the tip of a gold-handled cane fashioned in the likeness of a dragon’s head. The man had hair the color of raw gold. Behind his wire-rimmed spectacles, his eyes shone as cold as polished onyx. She had no doubt who she was looking at, as all dragons know when faced with their mortal enemy: St. George the Dragon Slayer!

Fear, so new to her, turned her legs to water and loosened her tongue. “Please spare me,” she said in a trembling voice, “for I am expecting.”

The man’s eyes grew brighter than the torches’ flames. “You mean you are carrying dragon young?”

“Three,” she admitted reluctantly.

“Ah-ha! Then I have captured not just one dragon but four! The prospectors are right. These hills
alive with treasure! I have truly hit the
mother lode

Leandra winced, realizing that she had doomed not just herself, but the new lives inside
of her as well. And Obsidian still slept in their den!

“Lock up the dragon
!” St. George snarled. And from among the trees, men pushed out a large wheeled cage.

Meanwhile, back in the den, Obsidian woke from his long sleep with an aching head and an uneasy feeling.
Where is Leandra?
When he went outside, he found the Douglas fir waiting.

“The news is bad,” said the Douglas fir. “Down in the deep woods, St. George the Dragon Slayer holds Leandra trapped in a cage. He charmed the deer meat with a powerful sleeping potion. We tried to warn you, but the bonfire kept us from roaming. Hold this tightly in your talons just under your chin.” He offered Obsidian a long green fern. “It will grant you invisibility. Then you will at least be able to visit Leandra without being seen. But whatever you do, do not try to free her from the cage yourself. St. George has spelled the cage to capture you the instant you touch the clasp.”

That night, the local people heard a loud, plaintive keening. It was the sound of Obsidian howling in grief over the capture of his mate. Leandra, in her cage in the deep woods, heard the cry too and wept with him.

Obsidian fell asleep outside the den. He dreamed that the Old Mother herself stood before him. She gave him the recipe for a spell that might help him in his time of crisis. Before she vanished back into the mountain, the Old Mother said, “Once you have cast the spell, know that only a magic greater than either of you will be able to reverse it.”

As soon as he woke up, Obsidian roamed the deep woods, gathering the ingredients for the spell the Old Mother had given him in his dream. In the mouth of the cave, Obsidian lit a fire with the flame of his own mouth. Then he tossed the ingredients into the fire. After a while, his eyes began to spin like two great sparkling wheels. An unseen force lifted him high into the air,
then dashed his body against the side of the mountain. He blacked out.

BOOK: From the Dragon Keepers' Vault
4.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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