The lost heir, p.1
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       The Lost Heir, p.1

           Tui T. Sutherland
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The Lost Heir


  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Map of Pyrrhia

  A Nightwing Guide to the Dragons of Pyrrhia

  Sandwings

  Mudwings

  Skywings

  Seawings

  Icewings

  Rainwings

  Nightwings

  The Dragonet Prophecy

  Prologue

  Part One

  The Edge of the Ocean

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Part Two

  Into the Deep

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Part Three

  Out of the Egg

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Epilogue

  The Adventure Continues

  Copyright

  Description: pale gold or white scales the color of desert sand; poisonous barbed tail; forked black tongues

  Abilities: can survive a long time without water, poison enemies with the tips of their tails like scorpions, bury themselves for camouflage in the desert sand, breathe fire

  Queen: Since the death of Queen Oasis, the tribe is split between three rivals for the throne: sisters Burn, Blister, and Blaze.

  Alliances: Burn fights alongside SkyWings and MudWings; Blister is allied with the SeaWings; and Blaze has the support of most SandWings as well as an alliance with the IceWings.

  Description: thick, armored brown scales, sometimes with amber and gold underscales; large, flat heads with nostrils on top of the snout

  Abilities: can breathe fire (if warm enough), hold their breath for up to an hour, blend into large mud puddles; usually very strong

  Queen: Queen Moorhen

  Alliances: currently allied with Burn and the SkyWings in the great war

  Description: red-gold or orange scales; enormous wings

  Abilities: powerful fighters and fliers, can breathe fire

  Queen: Queen Scarlet

  Alliances: currently allied with Burn and the MudWings in the great war

  Description: blue or green or aquamarine scales; webs between their claws; gills on their necks; glow-in-the-dark stripes on their tails/snouts/underbellies

  Abilities: can breathe underwater, see in the dark, create huge waves with one splash of their powerful tails; excellent swimmers

  Queen: Queen Coral

  Alliances: currently allied with Blister in the great war

  Description: silvery scales like the moon or pale blue like ice; ridged claws to grip the ice; forked blue tongues; tailsnarrow to a whip-thin end

  Abilities: can withstand subzero temperatures and bright light, exhale a deadly freezing breath

  Queen: Queen Glacier

  Alliances: currently allied with Blaze and most of the SandWings in the great war

  Description: scales constantly shift colors, usually bright like birds of paradise; prehensile tails

  Abilities: can camouflage their scales to blend into their surroundings, use their prehensile tails for climbing; no known natural weapons

  Queen: Queen Dazzling

  Alliances: not involved in the great war

  Description: purplish-black scales and scattered silver scales on the underside of their wings, like a night sky full of stars; forked black tongues

  Abilities: can breathe fire, disappear into dark shadows, read minds, foretell the future

  Queen: a closely guarded secret

  Alliances: too mysterious and powerful to be part of the war

  When the war has lasted twenty years . . .

  the dragonets will come.

  When the land is soaked in blood and tears . . .

  the dragonets will come.

  Find the SeaWing egg of deepest blue.

  Wings of night shall come to you.

  The largest egg in mountain high

  will give to you the wings of sky.

  For wings of earth, search through the mud

  for an egg the color of dragon blood.

  And hidden alone from the rival queens,

  the SandWing egg awaits unseen.

  Of three queens who blister and blaze and burn,

  two shall die and one shall learn

  if she bows to a fate that is stronger and higher,

  she’ll have the power of wings of fire.

  Five eggs to hatch on brightest night,

  five dragons born to end the fight.

  Darkness will rise to bring the light.

  The dragonets are coming. . . .

  A dragon was trying to hide in the storm.

  Lightning flickered across the dark clouds. Hvitur clutched his fragile cargo closer. If he could make it over the mountains, he’d be safe. He’d escaped the sky dragons’ palace unseen. And the secret cave was so close. …

  But his theft had not been as stealthy as he thought, and eyes as black as obsidian were already tracking him from below.

  The enormous dragon on the mountain ledge had pale gold scales that radiated heat like a desert horizon. Her black eyes narrowed, watching the gleam of silver wings far up in the clouds.

  She flicked her tail, and behind her two more dragons rose to the sky and dove into the heart of the storm. A piercing shriek echoed off the mountains as their talons seized the moon-pale ice dragon.

  “Bind his mouth,” the waiting dragon ordered as her soldiers dropped Hvitur on the slick, wet ledge in front of her. He was already inhaling, ready to attack. “Quickly!”

  One of the soldiers grabbed a chain from the pile of smoldering coals. He threw it around the ice dragon’s snout, clamping his jaws together with a sizzling smell of burning scales. Hvitur let out a muffled scream.

  “Too late.” The sand dragon’s forked tongue slithered in and out of her mouth. “You won’t be using your freezing-death breath on us, ice dragon.”

  “He was carrying this, Queen Burn,” said one of the soldiers, handing her a dragon egg.

  Burn squinted at the egg through the downpour. “This is not an IceWing egg,” she hissed. “You stole this from the SkyWing palace.”

  The IceWing stared back at her. Hissing steam circled his snout where the hot chains met cold silver scales.

  “You thought you got away unnoticed, didn’t you?” Burn said. “My SkyWing ally is not a fool. Queen Scarlet knows everything that happens in her kingdom. Her lookouts reported an IceWing thief sneaking away, and I decided finding you might add some violence to my boring visit.”

  Burn held the large egg up to the light of the fire and turned it slowly. Red and gold shimmered below the pale, smooth surface.

  “Yes. This is a SkyWing egg about to hatch,” Burn mused. “Why would my sister send you to steal a SkyWing dragonet? Blaze hates any dragon younger and prettier than she is.” She thought for a moment as rain drummed on the ledge around them. “Unless … the brightest night is tomorrow. …”

  Her tail flicked up like a scorpion’s, the poisonous barb inches from Hvitur’s eyes. “You’re not in Blaze’s army, are you? You’re one of those insipid underground peacemongers.”

  “The Talons of Peace?” said one of the soldiers. “You mean they’re real
?”

  Burn snorted. “A few worms crying over a little blood. Unwrap his chains. He won’t be able to freeze us until his scales cool down.” The enormous sand dragon leaned closer as her soldier pulled the chain away. “Tell me, ice dragon, do you really believe in that pompous old NightWing’s prophecy?”

  “Haven’t enough dragons died for your war?” snarled Hvitur, wincing at the pain in his jaws. “All of Pyrrhia has suffered for the last twelve years. The prophecy says —”

  “I don’t care. No prophecy decides what happens to me,” Burn interrupted. “I’m not letting a bunch of words or baby dragons choose when I die or what I bow to. We can have peace when my sisters are dead and I am queen of the SandWings.” Her venomous tail dipped closer to the silver dragon.

  Rain pattered on Hvitur’s scales. He glared up at her. “The dragonets are coming, whether you like it or not, and they’ll choose who the next SandWing queen should be.”

  “Really?” Burn stepped back and turned the egg slowly between her talons. Her forked tongue slipped in and out of her smile. “So, IceWing. Is this egg a part of your pathetic prophecy?”

  Hvitur went still.

  Burn tapped lightly on the eggshell with one long talon. “Hello?” she called. “Is there a dragonet of destiny in there? Ready to come out and end this big bad war?”

  “Leave it alone,” Hvitur choked out.

  “Tell me,” Burn said, “what becomes of your precious prophecy … if one of the five dragonets is never hatched at all?”

  “You wouldn’t,” he said. “No one would harm a dragon egg.” His blue eyes were fixed desperately on her talons.

  “No ‘wings of sky’ to help save the world,” Burn said. “What a sad, sad story.” She began tossing the egg from one front claw to the other. “I guess that means you should be very, very careful with this terribly important little — oops!”

  With an exaggerated lunge, Burn pretended the wet egg was slipping through her talons … and then she let it fall over the side of the cliff into the rocky darkness below.

  “No!” Hvitur shrieked. He threw off the two soldiers and flung himself toward the edge. Burn slammed her massive claws down on his neck.

  “So much for destiny,” she smirked. “So much for your tragic little movement.”

  “You’re a monster,” the IceWing gasped, writhing under her talons. His voice cracked with despair. “We’ll never give up. The dragonets — the dragonets will come and stop this war.”

  Burn leaned down to hiss into his ear. “Even if they do — it’ll be far too late for you.” Her claws ripped through the silver dragon’s wings, shredding them as Hvitur shrieked in agony. With a swift movement, she stabbed her poisonous tail through his skull and flung the long, silver body over the edge of the cliff.

  The ice dragon’s screams cut off long before the echoes of his corpse slamming into the rocks below.

  The SandWing turned her black eyes to her soldiers. “Perfect,” she said. “That should be the last we hear about that stupid prophecy.” She held out her talons so the rain could wash away the glistening dragon blood. “Let’s go find something else to kill.”

  The three dragons spread their wings and lifted off into the dark clouds.

  Some time later, far below, a large dragon the color of rust crawled over the rocks to the broken body of the ice dragon. She nudged his tail aside and lifted a shard of eggshell from underneath it, then slipped back into the labyrinth of caves under the cliffs.

  Stone walls brushed against her wings. She breathed out a plume of flame to light her way along the dark passage, deep into the mountain.

  “I stand with the Talons of Peace,” hissed a voice in the shadows. “Kestrel? Is that you?”

  “We await the wings of fire,” answered the red dragon. A blue-green SeaWing emerged from a side cave, and she tossed the eggshell at his feet. “Not that it’ll do us much good now,” she snarled. “Hvitur is dead.”

  The SeaWing stared at the eggshell. “But — the SkyWing egg —”

  “Broken,” she said. “Gone. It’s over, Webs.”

  “It can’t be,” he said. “Tomorrow is the brightest night. The three moons will all be full for the first time in a century. The dragonets of the prophecy have to hatch tomorrow.”

  “Well, one of them is already dead,” Kestrel said. Rage flickered in her eyes. “I knew I should have stolen the SkyWing egg myself. I know the Sky Kingdom. They wouldn’t have caught me a second time.”

  Webs grimaced, scratching one claw over the gills along his neck. “Asha is dead, too.”

  “Asha?” A spurt of flame shot from Kestrel’s nose. “How?”

  “Caught in a battle between Blaze’s and Blister’s forces on the way here. She still made it with the red MudWing egg, but she died of her wounds soon after.”

  “So it’s just you, me, and Dune to raise the little worms,” Kestrel growled. “For a prophecy that can never be fulfilled. Let’s break the cursed eggs now and be done with it. We’ll be long gone before the Talons of Peace return for the dragonets.”

  “No!” Webs hissed. “Keeping the dragonets alive for the next eight years is more important than anything. If you don’t want to be part of that —”

  “All right, enough,” Kestrel snapped. “I’m the strongest dragon in the Talons of Peace. You need me. It doesn’t matter how I feel about nasty little dragonets.” She eyed the eggshell on the floor, rubbing her scarred palms together. “Although I thought at least one of them would be a SkyWing.”

  “I’ll find us a fifth dragonet.” Webs pushed past her, scales scraping against rock.

  “There’s no way back into the Sky Kingdom, brainless,” she said. “They’ll be guarding the hatchery closely now.”

  “Then I’ll get an egg somewhere else,” he said grimly. “The RainWings don’t even count their eggs — I could take one from the rain forest without anyone noticing.”

  “Of all the horrible ideas,” Kestrel said with a shudder. “RainWings are wretched creatures. Nothing like SkyWings.”

  “We have to do something,” Webs said. He hissed as his tail sent the eggshell skittering across the floor. “In eight years, the Talons of Peace will come looking for five dragonets. The prophecy says five, and we’re going to make it come true … whatever it takes.”

  A wave roared onto the beach and crashed around Tsunami’s talons. Her webbed claws sank into the wet sand. Her blue wings billowed in the wind.

  She lifted her head, breathing in the wild sea air.

  This was where she was supposed to be. This was her ocean.

  “Let me guess,” Glory said mockingly behind her. “You guys, that’s the smell of freedom.”

  “Freedom smells a lot like fish,” Starflight observed. “Which, to be clear, is kind of nose-curlingly awful.”

  “I love it,” Tsunami said. This was what the Talons of Peace had stolen from her. They’d kept her trapped in the stale, dreary air under the mountain her whole life, when she was meant to be out here, flying and swimming and living like a real SeaWing.

  Starflight glanced up at the sky and edged back toward the dark foliage that lined the beach. “Shouldn’t we stay under the trees? What if a patrol spots us? I mean —” He stopped and took a deep breath. “We must stay under the trees. All right. Yes. Everyone back into the trees right now.”

  The others ignored him, although Sunny gave him a pitying glance.

  Tsunami bent her head to study the waves washing over her talons. Small shapes, silver and green and yellow, darted through the shallows. The ocean smelled much more alive than the cave river.

  Was it only a week since they’d run away from their guardians? It was hard to remember exactly how long they’d been trapped in the SkyWing prison.

  But there was one thing Tsunami remembered clearly: the sound of bone snapping under her talons.

  She poked a hole in the sand with her claw. I had to kill that SeaWing. Queen Scarlet forced us to fight. There was no other
way out of the arena. He was crazy. It was him or me.

  The same thoughts kept circling in her head like lame-winged dragons. She shook her head and flared her wings. This was ridiculous. Was she a dragon or a scavenger? Dragons were meant to be fierce warriors; one little death shouldn’t rattle her so much.

  Besides, Glory had done worse with her deadly venom, and she didn’t seem bothered at all.

  “You know what I love?” Clay said mournfully. “Fish. Lots of fish. Big fish I can eat, not these little wriggle-scraps.” The MudWing sat down on the sand beside Tsunami. His stomach growled loud enough for all of them to hear.

  Sunny giggled. “Clay, it’s only been a day since you caught that enormous pig for all of us.”

  “Wasn’t enormous,” Clay said. He sighed, his wings drooping. “That was the smallest pig in the whole world.”

  “You should have eaten my carrots.” Sunny clambered up to sit on his back and peer out at the ocean. The sun was just rising in a peach-pale sky, casting broken paths of light across the water. Two of the moons, barely slivers like thin claws, were vanishing behind the mountains.

  “I’m serious, everybody,” Starflight said. “It’s not safe out on the beach, not with all the MudWings and SkyWings looking for us.” The NightWing was standing well out of reach of the waves, trying to shake sand off his talons.

  As far as Tsunami was concerned, they’d already wasted a day flying south of the Diamond Spray Delta, basically because Starflight had worried and complained until everyone agreed. Yes, the SkyWings were after them. Yes, they were probably mad about the dragonets’ escape from SkyWing prison. And they were pretty definitely mad about the part where Glory maybe killed their queen on the way out.

  But Tsunami didn’t want to keep running. She wanted to find her family. Once they knew who she was, she was sure the SeaWings would protect her and her friends.

  Most of all, she really wanted Starflight to stop fretting, complaining, and bossing. It made the others ner vous and harder to organize. She almost wished the NightWings hadn’t given him back.

  “Why are you so worried?” Tsunami asked him. “If they do recapture us, won’t your NightWing friends come swooping in to rescue you again?”

 
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