Authors: M.L. Forman
© 2009 Mark L. Forman
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, Shadow Mountain
. The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Shadow Mountain.
All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Forman, Mark, 1964-
Slathbog’s gold / Mark Forman.
p. cm. — (Adventurers wanted ; bk. 1)
Summary: When fifteen-year-old orphan Alex Taylor sees an odd sign in
a shop window and goes inside to investigate, he is sent on a quest to
defeat an evil dragon, and in the process he confronts his fears and
learns about his future and his past.
ISBN 978-1-60641-029-5 (hardbound : alk. paper)
eISBN 1-60641-629-4 (eletronic)
[1. Fantasy. 2. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction.
3. Orphans—Fiction. 4. Wizards—Fiction.] I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
R. R. Donnelley and Sons, Crawfordsville, IN
lex and his friends gathered around the small opening, preparing for what they had to do. His eyes fixed on the darkness in front of him and a shiver ran down his back. The darkness didn’t bother him, but the smell coming from the cave did. It was a nasty mix of rotten eggs and meat that had been left out too long, and it turned his stomach. Looking away, he tried to think of something happy, but nothing came to him.
Everything that had happened to him in the past few months seemed like a dream, a dream that was fast becoming a nightmare. They had reached the goal of their great quest. Alex had thought this day would never come, and for a moment he wondered why he was here.
“In we must go, or give up our quest,” said Bregnest in a grim tone.
“To some this would seem foolish, but let us seek our fate and trust to luck,” Skeld added, looking as serious as Alex had ever seen him.
thought Alex. That was a good word for what they were about to do. Foolish or incredibly brave, he couldn’t decide which. It didn’t really matter though, because Alex knew he would go into the dark cave with his friends. He looked around at his seven companions and smiled, remembering how he had gotten here.
It had been a normal day when he had wished for a life different from the one he had known, a life of adventure. Yes, it had been a day like every other day he could remember—before he became an adventurer.
* * *
Alex had lived above the Happy Dragon tavern
for as long as he could remember and there had been times when he’d enjoyed the sounds of the customers, the clinking of glasses, and the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. The tavern was usually a happy place, but right then it was hard for Alex to think of anything happy.
“It wasn’t even my fault,” Alex said to himself as he clenched and unclenched his hands inside his jacket pockets, trying to work off his anger. If only he could run away from his life, run away to a place where no one would know him. He wanted to change his life, but he knew his wish was foolish and nothing would change. Frustrated, he walked faster than normal, ignoring the people and traffic around him.
It wasn’t fair that he had been yelled at for breaking the glasses. His stepbrother, Todd, had tripped him as Alex was carrying the glasses to the kitchen. Todd hadn’t meant to get him in trouble, or even to make him drop the glasses. He was always just goofing around. It was just Alex’s bad luck that he got blamed when the joke went wrong.
Turning onto Sildon Lane, Alex slowed his pace and took a deep breath to calm himself. Todd was two years older than Alex, and as stepbrothers went, he wasn’t all bad. The problem with Todd was that he was always doing things he shouldn’t have been, or that he didn’t really think through. It wasn’t Mr. Roberts’s fault that it looked like Alex was to blame for whatever happened. Todd was good at disappearing when things went wrong, leaving Alex to answer for what had happened.
Alex always called his stepfather “Mr. Roberts” or “sir” and Mr. Roberts was a busy man. He often didn’t have time to listen to Alex’s explanations of what had happened before he started yelling. Alex knew running the Happy Dragon was difficult work, and always being shorthanded didn’t help Mr. Roberts’s temper.
Alex paused and looked at his reflection in the dirty window beside him. His blue-green eyes looked back at him, and he could see the troubled look on his face. Smiling weakly at his reflection, he used both hands to flatten his ruffled, sandy-blond hair. He was being foolish and he knew it. But he couldn’t deny he still felt unhappy and frustrated with his life and he longed for something different.
Alex shook his head to clear his thoughts as he continued to walk down the lane. He glanced at the shop windows as he passed them, not really looking for or seeing anything. He felt his anger burning out, just like it always did when he took time to think about things.
He knew that when he got back to the tavern, Mr. Roberts would apologize for yelling at him and Todd would apologize for getting him into trouble.
Mr. Roberts was a large man who shouted a lot, but never really got angry about anything. He had always treated Alex well enough, but he had never seemed like a real father, at least not to Alex. Even though he knew in his heart that Mr. Roberts and Todd would do anything for him, Alex felt alone in the world. And in some ways, it was the truth. His mother had died when Alex was only seven, and he had never known his real father. He didn’t have any relatives, or at least none that he knew about.
Alex smiled as he remembered his mother, even though the memory made him sad. She had always told him that he could be whatever he wanted to be, if he just tried. Right now he wanted to be anything except the dishwasher at the Happy Dragon.
Alex stopped and looked back at the bookshop window he had just passed. It looked like the same bookshop he had walked by hundreds of times before, but there was something different about it today. Instead of the normal pile of dusty books in the window, there was a large, brightly painted sign with two words printed on it in large red letters
Alex stared at the sign for a minute, forgetting his troubles. He wondered what the sign might mean and why it was in the bookshop at all. It looked out of place in the window. He moved closer to the glass and tried to look into the shop, cupping his hands around his eyes to cut out the afternoon glare, but he couldn’t see anything. Puzzled, he looked back at the sign to see if he’d missed something. In deep blue letters the sign now said