The dragonet prophecy, p.1
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       The Dragonet Prophecy, p.1
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           Tui T. Sutherland
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The Dragonet Prophecy


  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

  Under the Mountain

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Part Two

  In the Sky Kingdom

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Part Three

  An Egg the Color of Dragon Blood

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  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.”

  Six Years Later . . .

  Clay didn’t think he was the right dragon for a Big Heroic Destiny.

  Oh, he wanted to be. He wanted to be the great MudWing savior of the dragon world, glorious and brave. He wanted to do all the wonderful things expected of him. He wanted to look at the world, figure out what was broken, and fix it.

  But he wasn’t a natural-hatched hero. He had no legendary qualities at all. He liked sleeping more than studying, and he kept losing chickens in the caves during hunting practice because he was paying attention to his friends instead of watching for feathers.

  He was all right at fighting. But “all right” wasn’t going to stop the war and save the dragon tribes. He needed to be extraordinary. He was the biggest dragonet, so he was supposed to be the scary, tough one. The minders wanted him to be terrifyingly dangerous.

  Clay felt about as
dangerous as cauliflower.

  “Fight!” his attacker howled, flinging him across the cavern. Clay crashed into the rock wall and scrambled up again, trying to spread his mud-colored wings for balance. Red talons raked at his face and he ducked away. “Come on,” the red dragon snarled. “Stop holding back. Find the killer inside you and let it out.”

  “I’m trying!” Clay said. “Maybe if we could stop and talk about it —”

  She lunged for him again. “Feint to the left! Roll right! Use your fire!” Clay tried to duck under her wing to attack her from below, but of course he rolled the wrong way. One of her talons smashed him to the ground, and he yelped with pain.

  “WHICH LEFT WAS THAT, USELESS?” Kestrel bellowed in his ear. “Are all MudWings this stupid? OR ARE YOU JUST DEAF?”

  Well, if you keep that up, I will be soon, Clay thought. The SkyWing lifted her claws and he wriggled free.

  “I don’t know about other MudWings,” he protested, licking his sore talons. “Obviously. But perhaps we could try fighting without all the shouting and see —” He stopped, hearing the familiar hiss that came before one of Kestrel’s fire attacks.

  He threw his wings over his head, tucked his long neck in, and rolled into the maze of stalagmites that studded one corner of the cave. Flames blasted the rocks around him, singeing the tip of his tail.

  “Coward!” the older dragon bellowed. She smashed one of the rock columns into a shower of sharp black pebbles. Clay covered his eyes and almost immediately felt her stamp down hard on his tail.

  “OW!” he yelled. “You said stomping tails was cheating!” He seized the closest stalagmite between his claws and scrabbled up on top of it. From his perch near the roof, he glared down at his guardian.

  “I’m your teacher,” Kestrel snarled. “Nothing I do is cheating. Get down here and fight like a SkyWing.”

  But I’m NOT a SkyWing, Clay thought rebelliously. I’m a MudWing! I don’t like setting things on fire or flapping around in circles biting at dragon necks. His teeth still ached from Kestrel’s jewel-hard scales.

 
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