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Dragon Gold

Kate Forsyth

  Kate Forsyth is the bestselling fantasy novelist of The Witches of Eileanan series, which has been published in the US, Germany and Australia, and The Starthorn Tree. She is descended from a fine line of women writers including Charlotte Barton – the author of the first book for children every published in Australia, A Mother’s Offering to her Children, which was published in Sydney in 1841 – and the first Australian-born woman novelist and one of the country’s earliest women journalists, Louisa Atkinson, Australia’s Brontë.

  Kate lives with a black cat called Shadow, her husband Greg and her three beautiful children in a seaside suburb of Sydney.

  Mitch Vane grew up in an artistic household in Melbourne. She studied graphic art and has been working as a freelance illustrator for the last 20 years, five of those based in London. Her partner is a writer, and sometimes they work on books together. They have a twelve-year-old daughter who’s read all Mitch’s books, and an eight-year-old son who’s ripped the pages of most of them. Humour plays a big part in Mitch’s work, and she much prefers to draw funny, crazy pictures – the crazier the better. All of her work is wonky and messy: she can’t draw a straight line, even with a ruler.


  The Starthorn Tree


  Little Lunch (series)

  Fairy Bread

  Wednesday Was Even Worse

  The Amazing Adventures of Dr Harry and Scarlet: The Possum Thief

  The Amazing Adventures of Dr Harry and Scarlet: The Pig Circus

  For my boys – KF

  For Jordie. May your wishes come true – MV

  First published 2005 in Pan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited

  1 Market Street, Sydney

  Text copyright © Kate Forsyth 2005

  Illustrations copyright © Mitch Vane 2005

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

  National Library of Australia

  Cataloguing-in-Publication data:

  Forsyth, Kate, 1966–.

  Dragon gold.

  For children aged 6-11 years.

  ISBN 0 330 42193 X.

  I. Vane, Mitch. II. Title.


  Typeset in 12/15 Janson Text by Liz Seymour, Seymour Designs Printed in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group

  Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

  This electronic edition published 2013 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd

  1 Market Street, Sydney

  Text copyright © Kate Forsyth 2005

  Illustrations copyright © Mitch Vane 2005

  The moral rights of the creators have been asserted.

  All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.

  This ebook may not include illustrations and/or photographs that may have been in the print edition.

  EPUB format: 9781743346266

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  About Kate Forsyth and Mitch Vane

  Also by Kate Forsyth and Mitch Vane


  Title page

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12


  There once was a boy called Ben who really badly wanted a dog of his own. Every night he wished for one on the first star, and every month he wished for one on the new moon. He asked his mum for roast chicken every week so he could break the wishbone with his little brother, Tim. He even wished on fallen eyelashes. But his wish never came true.

  One night he asked his mum if he was ever going to get the dog he wanted so badly. His mum sighed. ‘I wish we could have a dog too,’ she said. ‘But we don’t have a very big garden. It wouldn’t really be fair to keep a dog here. One day we’ll have a great big house with a great big garden and you can have a dog, and a cubbyhouse, and lots of trees to climb. Wouldn’t that be great?’

  ‘We’ll have to stop spending so much money then,’ said Ben’s dad.

  But somehow there were always lots of things to spend money on. Some were necessary, like ice-cream and new books and going to the movies, but some, like gas bills and haircuts and brussel sprouts, seemed most unnecessary. It became clear to Ben that he was going to have to find some other way of getting money.

  ‘I need to find some pirate treasure,’ Ben said to his friend James one afternoon. ‘You want to help?’

  ‘Me too?’ asked Tim.

  ‘Pirates don’t exist anymore,’ James said. He was a boy who liked to stick to the facts.

  ‘But they might have buried their treasure somewhere, years ago, and never gone to dig it up,’ Ben said.

  James thought about this. ‘Maybe,’ he said. ‘But how are we supposed to find it?’

  ‘The pirates would have made a treasure map,’ Ben said, getting excited. ‘That would show us where to go.’

  ‘But how are we meant to find the map?’ James asked.

  ‘I don’t know,’ Ben admitted. There was a long silence. ‘Dragons have treasure too,’ he said then, hopefully.

  ‘Dragons don’t really exist,’ James said.

  ‘Yes, they do! I’ve seen pictures,’ Ben said.

  ‘They’re just made up,’ James said.

  ‘No, they’re not!’

  ‘Yes, they are.’

  ‘No, they’re not!’

  ‘Yes, they are.’

  ‘What about St George?’ Ben asked. ‘You can’t have St George without the dragon.’

  ‘That’s just a story,’ James said.

  ‘How do you know?’ Ben asked. ‘If dragons don’t exist, how come there are so many stories about them, and so many pictures?’

  ‘Well, maybe they existed once,’ James admitted. ‘But they don’t nowadays. Not here anyway.’

  There was another long, depressed silence.

  ‘We need a magic lamp with a genie in it. Or a magic carpet, to take us to the pirates’ treasure. We need something magical,’ Ben said. ‘I wish I was a wizard.’

  ‘Me too,’ said Tim.


  When Ben told his mum he had decided to become a wizard, she thought it a very good idea.

  ‘I could do with some magical help round here,’ she said. ‘Maybe you could enchant the broom so it’ll sweep up all the mess you boys make.’

  Ben thought this was a stupid thing to waste wizardly powers on. He spent quite a bit of time daydreaming about what he would do with his magic once he worked out how to be a wizard, including turning one of the boys at school into a cane toad.

  Dreaming about it didn’t help him learn how to be a wizard, though.

  Nor did the wizard’s cloak and hat his mu
m bought him at the school fete, nor the piles of books he borrowed from the library. All his potions ended up smelly messes that his mum threw down the sink, and all his spells were useless. As the weather got hotter and hotter, Ben nearly gave up trying to learn magic. Except when he saw another boy playing with a dog in the park.

  There was an old witch’s house round the corner from Ben’s place. All you could see of it was a tall tower with a pointed roof rising up behind a high sandstone wall covered in ivy. Ugly gargoyles held up the roof, and there was a dirty diamond-paned window grown over with leaves.

  No-one knew who lived there. Sometimes, when Ben and Tim walked past with their mum, they could hear someone playing the piano, but they never saw anyone. Everyone called it the witch’s house, even Ben’s grandma, who had grown up in the house where Ben and Tim now lived. Ever since Grandma had been a little girl, the witch’s house had been a place of mystery and rumour. So, naturally, Ben thought it was the perfect place to go looking for magical help.

  One day he asked his mum if they could walk past it on their way to meet James, even though it was not the quickest route. Mum liked walking past the witch’s house too, so she didn’t mind. She told them about the White Lady, the ghost that was meant to haunt the witch’s house, and how men had once met in the tower for secret rituals at midnight. It was always hard to know if Ben’s mum was telling the truth as she liked telling stories, but Ben didn’t mind because her stories were almost always interesting.

  As Mum and Tim walked on ahead, hand-in-hand, Ben lagged behind, looking up at the big green doorway set into the wall. He wondered if he dared knock, or put a note for the witch under the door.

  A cat was sitting on the hollowed step, washing its tail. It was a smoky-grey colour and had orange eyes. Ben liked cats as well as dogs, and so he bent and rubbed its fur. It arched its back under his hand and purred.

  ‘I bet you know a spell or two,’ Ben said to the cat. ‘I wish you could talk. Then you’d be able to help me.’

  ‘If I wanted to,’ the cat answered.


  Ben stared. ‘Did you just say something?’

  ‘Your powers of understanding astound me,’ the cat answered.


  The cat resumed washing its tail.

  ‘So you really are a witch’s cat!’

  ‘Depending upon your definition of witch.’

  ‘So can you tell me a magic spell?’ Ben asked, hopping up and down in excitement.

  ‘I could. Whether I will is another matter entirely.’

  ‘Oh, please?’

  The cat examined its claws.

  ‘I’ve been trying and trying to learn magic, so I can become a wizard and cast spells, but even though I’ve read every book in the library, none has been any use at all.’

  ‘Humans like to make things so complicated,’ the cat sighed. ‘Magic is really very simple.’


  ‘Of course.’

  ‘So what do I do? Do I need a magic wand? A book of spells?’

  ‘If it makes you feel better,’ the cat said. ‘Tell me, what do you want so badly that you are willing to meddle with magic?’

  ‘Dragon’s gold,’ Ben answered. ‘Or pirates’ treasure. Either would do.’

  ‘Humans are so mercenary,’ the cat sighed. ‘Very well. What shall be my reward for helping you?’

  ‘I don’t know,’ Ben answered blankly.

  ‘Pilchards,’ the cat told him. ‘And a bowl of cream. The elderly woman with whom I reside has an unfortunate tendency to forget the luxuries of life. Not to mention the simple necessities, like food and fresh water. She grows more absentminded with every passing year.’

  ‘Are you talking about the witch?’

  The cat yawned. ‘In a manner of speaking.’

  Ben was puzzled.

  ‘Pilchards,’ the cat said. ‘And cream. Every night.’

  Ben hesitated, then said, ‘All right,’ thinking he’d worry about how to manage that later.

  ‘Excellent. Now, you desired a magic wand. Let me think. If you rummage around in that pile of fallen leaves over there, I think you may find a suitable stick . . . I mean, wand.’

  Ben did as he was told and found an old stick, about thirty centimetres long and very knobbly. A few old, dried-up leaves still hung along its length. ‘Do you mean this?’ he asked, holding it up uncertainly.

  ‘Yes. Excellent.’

  ‘This is a magic wand?’

  ‘A perfectly acceptable magic wand. It’s oak, the most ancient and powerful of woods.’

  ‘Oh. OK.’

  ‘Rub it all over, saying, “I hereby charge you, wand, with the powers of wind, water, flame and rock”.’ Ben did as he was told. ‘Then, when it’s exactly noon, point your wand up at the sun and say:

  “With these magic words, I begin my spell.

  Hear me, first star, hear me well.

  Send me dragon’s gold, from the days of old.

  The spell has been cast, let the magic last.”’

  Ben repeated the spell over and over until he felt sure he had learnt it by heart. ‘All right!’ he said then, excited. ‘I’ll go and do it now.’

  ‘Don’t forget the pilchards and cream,’ the cat said, curling its tail around its paws.

  ‘I won’t,’ Ben promised and ran off to join Tim and his mum. Behind him, the cat yawned and washed its face.


  ‘That’s not really a magic wand,’ James said. ‘It’s just an old stick.’

  He and Ben were sitting under a tree in the park, while Tim and Sarah dug up the dirt nearby. Sarah was James’s little sister, and she had freckles and long red-gold hair, with a very short, crooked fringe which she had chopped herself with her mother’s kitchen scissors. Sarah always wore pink. Today she was dressed as a fairy princess, with a pink tutu, a shiny silver plastic tiara, and high-heeled fluffy pink slippers. She was getting rather grubby in the dirt. Ben’s mum and James’s mum were sitting on a picnic rug nearby, looking at the sparkling water of the bay and talking.

  ‘It is a wand,’ Ben said stubbornly. ‘It’s oak, the most ancient and powerful wood in the world.’

  ‘Says who?’

  ‘Says the witch’s cat.’

  ‘Yeah, sure,’ James said. ‘Cats can’t talk.’

  ‘This is a witch’s cat and it talked,’ Ben said. ‘It told me a spell to say.’ He squinted up at the sun, which was a hot white ball in the middle of a very blue sky.

  ‘So say the spell then.’

  ‘I will when it’s exactly noon,’ Ben said.

  ‘I bet it doesn’t work.’

  ‘I bet it does.’

  ‘I bet it doesn’t.’

  ‘I bet you a pile of dragon’s gold that it does!’

  ‘OK,’ James said. ‘That’d be good.’

  At last the sun was directly overhead. Ben took a deep breath, stood up and pointed his wand straight up. ‘With these magic words, I begin my spell,’ he said. ‘Hear me, first star, hear me well. Send me dragon gold, from the days of old. The spell has been cast, let the magic last.’

  Then, out of the blazing heat of the sun, a dragon came plunging towards them. It came so fast that Ben only had time to gasp and drop his wand, throwing his arms over his head. Then the dragon’s leathery golden wings snapped open, blotting out the sun. With a triumphant scream, it snatched Sarah up in its claws and soared away.

  ‘Gracious!’ Mum cried. ‘What a noise! Was that you, Ben? I wish you wouldn’t screech like that.’

  Ben couldn’t speak. She glanced over at him, then frowned a little, looking around. ‘Where’s Sarah?’ she asked.

  No-one answered. James was so white all his freckles stood out as if they’d been splodged on with an orange crayon.

  Then Tim pointed to the sky. ‘Up dere,’ he said.

  ‘Where, darling?’

  ‘Up dere.’

  ‘A dragon took her,’ Ben said. His voice
sounded funny.

  ‘Ben!’ she said. ‘This isn’t the time for making up stories. Where did she go?’

  ‘It’s true, a dragon did take her,’ Ben said.

  ‘Oh, Ben!’ Mum said in exasperation and called to James’s mum. The two mothers began to look everywhere, shouting Sarah’s name, their voices getting higher and shriller.

  ‘What are we going to do?’ James whispered.

  ‘We’ll have to get her back . . . somehow,’ Ben answered, feeling quite sick.

  ‘Me too?’ Tim asked.

  ‘But how? Where?’ James asked.

  ‘I’ll go and ask the cat,’ Ben said.

  ‘OK,’ James said.

  ‘You’ve got to admit dragons really do exist,’ Ben said. ‘And that my wand is magic.’

  ‘Yeah, I suppose so,’ James said. ‘I wish it wasn’t though.’

  So did Ben.


  All the grown-ups were so upset about Sarah being missing that it was really hard for Ben to get away to the witch’s house. In the end, he sneaked out while the grown-ups were waiting for the police to come. He ran the whole way, clutching a can of tuna and a tube of condensed milk that he had found in the cupboard.

  The cat was not pleased with his efforts. ‘Did I fail to make myself clear?’ it asked, lashing its tail. ‘Cream? Pilchards?’

  ‘It’s all I could find,’ Ben explained, panting. ‘Please, you’ve got to help me. I said the spell just like you told me, but instead of the gold, a dragon came and it took Sarah, James’s little sister, and we’ve got to get her back. Please!’

  ‘A dragon?’ the cat hissed, arching its back. ‘You must’ve said the spell wrong.’

  ‘No, no, I didn’t. I said it just the way you told me.’

  ‘Say it again.’

  Ben slowly stumbled through the spell. ‘With these magic words, I begin my spell. Hear me, first star, hear me well. Send me dragon gold, from the –’

  ‘You forgot the apostrophe “s”,’ the cat hissed. ‘It was meant to be “dragon’s gold”, not “dragon gold”. No wonder you conjured up a dragon!’