The dragonet prophecy, p.23
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       The Dragonet Prophecy, p.23

           Tui T. Sutherland
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  “Besides,” Glory said, “he can’t stay with you. He’s our bigwings.” She brushed Clay’s wings with hers. He was glad he couldn’t change colors like her, or he felt like he might have turned crimson from nose to tail.

  “Are you sure?” Reed said to Clay. “You could still join us, bigwings or not. There’s more fighting ahead, and we could always use another strong dragon at our side.”

  Clay was tempted. He wanted to know his brothers and sisters, and it would be so easy to slip into this life and become a warrior, with no prophecies to worry about and no angry SandWing queens hunting him. But he remembered the charred corpses on the battlefield, and he thought about his friends and how they’d try to go on without him.

  “I’m afraid I have a destiny,” he said ruefully. “We’re going to try to stop the war.”

  Umber’s eyes went wide. “Like the prophecy?” he breathed. “That’s you?”

  Pheasant looked at Glory doubtfully.

  “That’s us,” Clay said, touching Glory’s talon.

  “Apparently,” Glory added. “More or less.”

  “We’ll try, anyway,” Clay said. “But maybe after that, once the war is over … maybe then I could come back?”

  “You’re one of us,” Reed said. “You can come back anytime.”

  “I hope you do,” Umber said. The others nodded.

  Clay looked from face to face, wondering how many of his brothers and sisters would survive the next battle.

  He wondered if he could stop the war in time to save them all.

  Tsunami and Sunny did not seem at all surprised to hear the explanation of Clay’s attack on their eggs.

  “Of course,” Tsunami said. She had hunted while they were gone, and she nudged a dead wild duck in Clay’s direction. “I never thought you were trying to kill us.”

  “As if you would ever!” Sunny agreed.

  “Well, I didn’t know that,” Clay said. They had found a small grove at the top of the cliff, far enough away from the waterfall and the battlefield that they couldn’t smell the burning dragons anymore. He dug his claws into the duck, suddenly famished.

  “So what now, bigwings?” Glory asked, clawing up a pheasant for herself. “I’m never going to get tired of calling you that.”

  “We’ll be like the MudWings,” Clay said proudly. “We stick together. No matter what happens. We’re a team, and we look after one another. Which means the first thing we have to do is find Starflight. The NightWings can’t just take him away. He’s one of us, and we’ll search the whole world until we find him. It’s time for us to get our friend ba —”

  He stopped as a heavy thump shook the ground and wings flapped to a stop behind him. The others were staring over his shoulder.

  “That better not be who I think it is,” said Clay.

  “Found him!” Glory said gleefully.

  Clay turned around. Starflight stood, blinking, in the waving grass just outside the trees. The sunlight picked up glints of purple and deep blue in his black scales. Up in the sky, the black bulk of Morrowseer was winging away.

  “Oh, bye!” Tsunami shouted after him. “Thanks for everything! You’ve been SO HELPFUL!”

  Sunny flung herself at Starflight with a cry of joy. “You found us!” She batted his wings with hers. “I hoped you would.” He returned her hug, smiling shyly at her.

  “Hello,” Clay said to Starflight. “You couldn’t have waited until after my noble speech? Maybe a day or two, so we could at least pretend to look for you?”

  “Morrowseer saw you flying up from the marshes,” Starflight said. “He said to tell you some other dragon could have spotted you, too, and we should be more careful.”

  “Well, great,” Tsunami said. “That’s such useful advice. Glad he’s so concerned, now that we’ve managed to save our own selves about a hundred times and everything. Any other survival tips? Or prophecy-fulfilling suggestions?”

  Starflight ducked his head, looking uncomfortable. “I’m sorry he took me,” he said. “I wanted him to bring me back right away, but he wouldn’t. He said they couldn’t afford to lose any NightWings, even —” He swallowed. “Even peculiar little ones.”

  “What the heck does that mean?” Clay asked.

  “You’re not peculiar!” Sunny said. “I’m the one that’s peculiar and little.”

  “Well, he is a bit,” Glory said. “But we don’t mind.”

  Tsunami looked thoughtful. “Couldn’t afford to lose any NightWings?” she echoed. “Is there something wrong with them? Did you notice?”

  “No.” Starflight glanced up at the sky. “He didn’t take me to the secret NightWing kingdom, if that’s what you’re wondering. I didn’t even get to meet any of the dragons he’d brought with him. We just stayed up in the mountain peaks, waiting. I guess he wanted to see what would happen to you guys.”

  “Not that he was going to do anything about it,” Glory muttered.

  “So he doesn’t care what we do next?” Clay asked. “He’s not making us go back to the Talons of Peace?”

  “I’m not sure he’s really happy with the Talons of Peace right now,” Starflight said.

  “Then we can do whatever we want,” Clay said. “I say we visit Tsunami’s mother, who, by the way,” he said to Starflight, “is the queen of the SeaWings, according to Kestrel.”

  “Seriously?” Starflight said, staring at Tsunami. “Like in the scroll? Coral’s supposed to be a great queen. Not crazy like Scarlet.”

  Tsunami looked uncharacteristically nervous. “Do you think she’ll be happy to meet me? What if she’s like Clay’s mother — no offense, Clay.”

  “I know she’ll be happy to see you,” Starflight said. “Don’t you remember what it said in The Royal Lineage of the SeaWings, from the Scorching to the Present?”

  All four dragonets groaned.

  “Remind me why we wanted him back?” Glory asked Clay.

  “This is important and fascinating!” Starflight said, stomping his feet. “Listen! Queen Coral doesn’t have an heir. Not a single one of her female dragonets has lived to adulthood. Rumor has it there’s a curse on her hatchings. That’s why she’ll be glad to meet Tsunami — you’re the lost heir to the Kingdom of the Sea.”

  Tsunami puffed out her chest. “Me? Really?”

  “Oh my gosh! Tsunami! You could be queen of the SeaWings one day!” Sunny cried.

  Tsunami grinned. “Wouldn’t that be great? I’ve always thought I’d be a good queen.”

  “Boy, I don’t know,” Glory said. “I mean, if you want to be queen one day, you’ll have to be bossy, controlling, full of yourself … oh, wait.”

  Tsunami whacked her lightly with her tail. “Behave, or I’ll have you beheaded,” she said, lifting her snout.

  “So let’s go find the SeaWings,” Clay said. “They’re not on Burn’s side, are they?”

  Starflight heaved one of his long-suffering sighs. “No, Clay. They’re allied with Blister, the middle sister, of whom the scrolls say —”

  Glory, Tsunami, and Clay all tackled him at once. Sunny tried to come to his rescue, and the five of them ended up scuffling in the grass, laughing.

  Clay caught a glimpse of the sky, blue and gold and empty of dragons, for now. He still didn’t know how they would fulfill the prophecy and end the war. He didn’t know how the other dragonets’ families would react to them. He knew Burn was hunting them, and probably other dangerous dragons soon would be as well.

  But he knew what he was here to do, and that was protect his friends, no matter what. He’d known it from hatching, even if he hadn’t understood it. He didn’t have to worry about finding his monster or being something he wasn’t anymore. He would have to be enough for the prophecy just the way he was.

  Big Heroic Destiny, he thought, here I

  Wind howled around the small rocky island with the force of a thousand screaming dragons. It battered at the three on the cliff as if trying to tear off their wings.

  One dragon was black as night, one red as flames, and one as pale as desert sand.

  “Why did you bring me here?” Kestrel shouted, digging her claws into gaps in the rock. The wind seized her voice and threw it away.

  Morrowseer ignored her. He stepped closer to the SandWing, their heads sheltered by their wings so they could hear each other.

  “Trust me, you’re the one,” he said. “Burn and Blaze are the two who will die. We have chosen you to be the SandWing queen.” Surf roared at the base of the cliff below them.

  Blister regarded him with glittering black eyes. She was smaller than Burn, with a long, cunning face and a black diamond pattern running down her spine. She had an eerie stillness about her, like a venomous snake about to strike. Unlike her sisters she had no scars. She was much too clever to do any of the fighting herself.

  “And the dragonets will make this happen,” she said. “The same dragonets who are now wandering loose around the countryside.”

  “We’ll keep an eye on them,” Morrowseer promised. “It’s better this way. Once the word gets out, everyone will be watching for them … waiting for the prophecy to come true at last.”

  “What if they have their own ideas about who should be queen?” Blister asked.

  “They won’t. Besides” — Morrowseer spread his wings so the star scales caught the moonlight — “the NightWing dragonet has his orders now. He knows what he’s supposed to do.”

  “What?” Kestrel yelled. “What are you saying?” She tried to crowd in closer, but the other two dragons spoke as if she wasn’t there.

  “I like that,” Blister mused. “A traitor in their midst. Tear them apart from the inside. My kind of plan.”

  “We’re good at those,” Morrowseer said. A blast of wind buffeted the sea against the rocks and yanked at the dragons’ tails. Thunder rumbled behind the thick clouds in the distance. “But we expect what we were promised.”

  “That won’t be a problem,” she said, running her forked tongue over her teeth. “Tell me, does your magic vision tell you where the dragonets will go next?”

  Morrowseer looked at her sourly. “That’s not how it works,” he said.

  Blister looked amused. “Well, let’s hope it’s to the SeaWings, then,” she said. “And her? This is the trouble?” She tossed her head at Kestrel.

  Kestrel caught the last question. “Yes,” she roared. “Why am I here? Morrowseer, you said the dragonets were in danger.”

  “And you came running,” he said. “Well, of course they’re in danger. More than they know. But you’re really here because you failed me.”

  Kestrel blinked her orange-yellow eyes and took a step back, glaring at him. “I failed you?” she growled. “I work for the Talons of Peace, not the NightWings. They can talk to me if they’ve got complaints. I kept those brats alive, like I was supposed to.”

  “But they don’t need you anymore,” Morrowseer said. “And neither do we.”

  Blister’s claws ripped across Kestrel’s throat before she could scream. Kestrel clutched at the blood pouring from her neck and staggered back, pummeled by the wind. Blister took another step and stabbed Kestrel in the heart with her poisonous tail.

  The SkyWing collapsed to the rocks, thrashing in agony. Her mouth opened to scream curses or breathe fire at her murderers, but only dark red blood bubbled out.

  Morrowseer glanced down at her, then reached out with one talon and nudged her body over the edge of the cliff. The wind caught her splayed wings and tossed her against the rocks until it got bored and dropped her in the ocean. The sound of the splash didn’t carry to the top of the cliff, where the other two dragons continued as if nothing had happened.

  “There’s one more,” Morrowseer said. “A SeaWing named Webs. If he made it out of the mountain, he’ll be looking for them, too. We need him dead before the rest of the plan will work.”

  “Not a problem,” Blister said again. She stared out at the pounding sea below them. “What’s one more dead dragon here or there on my way to the throne?”

  Morrowseer smiled. “Then we understand each other.”

  “Give me the dragonets,” she said, “and we’ll both get everything we want.”

  The SeaWing started back in an eddy of ripples. He blinked at her in clear surprise. His eyes were a blue so dark they were almost black.

  Tsunami pointed up at the surface. Come on out of the water so we can talk, she tried to signal. Hopefully he’d figure out what she meant.

  To her surprise, he whipped around and fled. His tail smacked a wave of water in her face.

  Well, that’s unfriendly, she thought. She swam after him, swinging her tail to propel herself even faster. He glanced back over his shoulder, saw her chasing him, and put on a burst of speed.

  Why was he running away? And how was he so fast?

  “Stop!” she tried to yell through the water. “I just want to talk!”

  Of course that didn’t work. He didn’t even slow down.

  But then he twisted to look back at Tsunami, and so he didn’t see the whale that suddenly loomed out of the deep in front of him.

  Tsunami waved her talons and pointed. “Watch out!” she tried to yell in a cascade of bubbles.

  The SeaWing smacked into the whale’s side and careened backward. The whale was only slightly bigger than the dragon, with ridges all along its back and a flat, mild-mannered face. It made a weird squeaking groan and blinked at the SeaWing in confusion.

  The dragon was still shaking his head, trying to reorient himself, when Tsunami caught up, grabbed his tail, and pinned him to the sand.

  Now what do I do? Tsunami thought. I have to get him to the surface to talk to him, but if I let him go, he might try to escape again.

  She frowned down at the dragon. He wasn’t struggling, at least. He lay on the sand under her talons, watching her almost curiously.

  Tsunami pointed at the surface again.

  The other dragon tipped his head to one side. Luminescent stripes lit up along his wings, flashing fast, then slow.

  All right, Tsunami thought. I can do that, too. Maybe he’s testing me.

  She lit up her own stripes, illuminating the ones on her snout, then the ones along her tail, and finally her wings. See? My stripes flash, too. I’m a SeaWing. Now let’s go up and talk.

  Slowly she spread her wings and lifted up, prepared to grab him if he tried to bolt again. He scrambled upright but stayed with her. Encouraged, Tsunami swam a bit closer to the surface. He followed, but only for a bit before he stopped and looked around.

  His stripes flashed again, this time along his neck and tail.

  Impatiently, Tsunami lit up her stripes one more time, mirroring what he’d done.

  The SeaWing’s wings flared open with a whoosh that scared fish into the reef. He lunged toward Tsunami, fast as a minnow. His front talons reached for her.

  Tsunami roared, blasting him in the eyes with bubbles, and sliced her claws across his snout. She didn’t know why he was attacking. Perhaps he thought she was an intruder, although he wasn’t much of a guard if his first instinct was to run away, and his second was to attack with no reason.

  He’ll be sorry when he finds out who I am! she thought fiercely.

  She kicked his underbelly hard with her back legs. He coughed up a stream of bubbles and fell back. Tsunami spread her wings and shot to the surface.

  She burst into the air and kept beating her wings to rise into the sky. In the distance, she could see the cliffside cave and the worried faces of her friends poking out.

  An enormous splash sounded behind her. The other SeaWing surged ou
t of the ocean. His massive tail whacked the water twice as he lifted into the air, sending giant waves rushing in all directions.

  He looked even bigger out here in the air. His hooked claws gleamed sharply in the sunlight. His dark blue eyes were fixed on her wings.

  The first true citizen of her kingdom she’d ever met, and he was coming to kill her.

  Text copyright © 2012 by Tui T. Sutherland

  Map and Border design © 2012 by Mike Schley

  Dragon illustrations © 2012 by Joy Ang

  All rights reserved. Published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., Publishers since 1920. SCHOLASTIC, SCHOLASTIC PRESS, and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic Inc.

  e-ISBN 978-0-545-44317-3

  First printing, July 2012

  Cover design by Phil Falco

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher. For information regarding permission, write to Scholastic Inc., Attention: Permissions Department, 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.



  Tui T. Sutherland, The Dragonet Prophecy



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