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Authors: Mark Robson

Longfang

BOOK: Longfang
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Acknowledgements:
With thanks to Steve and the boys at ‘The Games Vault’ for the brainstorming sessions. I never thought to find such a useful source of
expertise on my doorstep.

SIMON AND SCHUSTER

First published in Great Britain by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd, 2009
A CBS COMPANY

Copyright © Mark Robson
Cover illustration by David Wyatt © 2009

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.

The right of Mark Robson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,
1988.

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor
222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978-1-84738-070-8
eBook ISBN 978-1-47111-659-9

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, event or locales is entirely coincidental.

Typeset by Rowland Phototypesetting Ltd,
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Printed and bound in Great Britain by
CPI Cox & Wyman Ltd, Reading, Berkshire

For Justin,

Wishing you happiness and a dream that

will inspire you to great things.

Also by Mark Robson

Dragon Orb 1: Firestorm

Dragon Orb 2: Shadow

Imperial Spy

Imperial Assassin

Imperial Traitor

For information on future

books and other stories

by Mark Robson, visit:

www.markrobsonauthor.com

Contents

1.
Out of the Valley

2.
The Dark Orb

3.
Hide and Seek

4.
Into the Night

5.
White Terror

6.
A Night in the Woods

7.
Left Behind

8.
Crash!

9.
Convergence

10.
What’s the Connection?

11.
Harkesis

12.
‘The Oracle Will Pay’

13.
The Grand Library

14.
‘Not Again!’

15.
Murder

16.
A Fistful of Spears

17.
Followed

18.
A Tricky Landing

19.
On the Run

20.
Making a Stand

21.
The Castle of Despair

22.
Demons and Traps

23.
The Impossible Maze

24.
Power that Binds

Chapter One

Out of the Valley

Ever protected, the dusk orb lies

Behind the cover, yet no disguise.

Afterlife image, unreal yet real,

Lives in the shadows, waits to reveal.

Pell clutched at his left shoulder as the searing pain took his breath away. Flare after flare of mind-numbing agony lanced through the telepathic bond he shared with his night
dragon, Shadow, and tears welled in his eyes.

The wound to his dragon was serious. She was losing blood fast. It was a tough decision, but he knew that to escape the Valley of the Griffins with the dark orb intact, his best chance was to
have Shadow’s wound seared shut with dragonfire.

It seemed incredible that it was only two weeks since Pell and his three companions Elian, Kira and Nolita, had met with the Oracle, a spirit creature revered by dragons all over Areth. At the
Oracle’s command, the Great Quest for the four dragon orbs had begun. Pell was still not totally convinced that Elian, Kira and Nolita were being honest with him. He had set off alone to seek
the dark orb of the night dragons while the others went off in pursuit of the day orb. Betrayed and imprisoned by Segun, leader of the night dragon enclave, Pell had almost lost hope of completing
his mission. To his embarrassment and relief, the others had come to his rescue. But they told an improbable tale of Nolita gaining the day orb and delivering it to the Oracle. He pretended to
accept what they told him, but secretly he had serious doubts about it.

Winning the dark orb had been both difficult and costly. Griffins guarded the valley where the orb was hidden. When Pell arrived there, the senior council of the night dragons, led by Segun, had
got there first. The harsh-voiced speaker of the griffins, Karrok, insisted that a champion from each party should compete for the honour of ‘revealing’ the orb. Each wave of heat that
now surged through Pell’s shoulder triggered memories of that struggle. Segun had delegated Dirk, an immensely strong dragonrider, to represent the night dragon enclave and compete against
Pell. During the final challenge, Dirk’s dragon, Knifetail, had dealt Shadow the slashing blow to her shoulder that had opened the deep wound.

A low, rumbling roar reverberated around the valley basin, as Firestorm, Nolita’s day dragon, now breathed his hottest flames in a controlled jet over the gaping gash in Shadow’s
shoulder. Burning pain flooded across the mental bridge that linked Pell to his dragon, and his own shoulder burned in sympathy. He gripped it and squeezed hard to try to convince his body that it
was not his own flesh that was melting. The pain contrasted with the icy stab of defeat he had felt a few minutes earlier, when Dirk had beaten him to the orb. If the griffins had not seen
Pell’s opponent cheat to win, Segun would have taken possession of the orb and destroyed it. The night dragon leader was willing to do anything to see Pell and his companions fail, thereby
ensuring the Oracle’s death and freeing him to declare supremacy over all dragonkind.

To complete his part of the Oracle’s quest, Pell had to return the dark orb to the Dragon Spirit in the mountains of Orupee. The way things were going the worst might yet be still to come.
He had defied Segun, and the leader of the night dragon enclave was not the sort to forgive and forget.

‘This quest had better be worth it,’ Pell groaned through gritted teeth. ‘First outlawed by my dragon enclave. Now this.’

The telepathic link between dragon and rider brought many benefits, but this time Pell wished there was a way of shutting off the flow of thoughts and feelings. The roar of flame stopped, but
the pain barely dimmed. He dashed the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand and ran forwards through the snow to inspect Shadow’s wound as Firestorm stepped back. It wasn’t
pretty, but it had stopped bleeding.

‘Fire says it’s the best he can do.’ Nolita’s voice at Pell’s shoulder startled him. He had not realised she was there. Nolita did not come close to dragons unless
she had to, as they terrified her. The irony that one so scared of large animals should be a dragonrider was not lost on Pell, who felt that her cowardice reflected badly on all dragonriders. As
yet, he had seen nothing to change that opinion, but he knew he had to work with her. Her dragon had abilities that were useful to his cause. ‘He’s genuinely sorry that his healing fire
won’t work on night dragons,’ Nolita said.

‘I’m sure he is,’ Pell grunted. No sooner had the words left his mouth than he realised how ungrateful they sounded. He turned to face her and saw the hurt in her eyes.
‘Sorry, Nolita, that didn’t come out the way I intended. Please pass my thanks to Firestorm. I’m sure he did what he could. We’ll be fine. Shadow’s strong.’

‘Yes,’ she said, as her haunted eyes rose to meet those of the huge black dragon. ‘She is.’

Nolita backed away slowly, as Shadow proceeded to roll gently onto her side and dip the smoking wound into the deep snow. There was a hiss and a small cloud of steam rose around her shoulder.
The sympathetic pain in Pell’s shoulder lessened considerably.

Elian and Kira intercepted Nolita before she had moved more than a few paces.

‘We need to get out of here while we can,’ Kira urged, looking first to where Longfang, her dusk dragon, stood waiting and then up at the dozens of vicious-looking griffins circling
overhead. ‘The griffins promised to stop Segun and the others from following us until sunset, but that only gives us a couple of hours at best. Segun is furious. Once the griffins let him
leave, he’ll stop at nothing to destroy the dark orb.’

‘The other three night dragons are also out there somewhere,’ Elian, the rider of dawn dragon, Aurora, added. ‘Ra tells me the weather’s on the turn. Things could get
rough, but if we can hold out until dawn, she can get all of us out of this mess.’

‘And into another most likely,’ Kira muttered.

Pell felt Shadow getting back to her feet behind him. The cold snow must have soothed her pain, as the burning sensation in Pell’s shoulder had diminished to a dull throbbing. ‘In
case you hadn’t noticed, things are already rough,’ he growled. ‘But you’re right. We need to go. It’s a long way to the Oracle’s cave.’

As he spoke, Pell caught sight of Segun. The tall rider wore a sadistic expression of pleasure at the sight of Pell’s obvious pain. A sudden urge to race across and wipe the smile from
Segun’s face made Pell’s right hand go instinctively for his knife. Segun’s eyes followed Pell’s hand and the night dragon leader’s cruel smile broadened further. The
man was vicious. Pell had watched him kill one of his own lieutenants a few minutes earlier. The leader of the night dragon riders had not shown so much as a flicker of remorse afterwards. Common
sense crushed Pell’s rash impulse. He whirled round and bounded up Shadow’s side, twisting neatly into the saddle and slotting his booted feet into the stirrups.

‘Are you ready to fly again?’
he asked Shadow through their mental link.

‘We have what we came for,’
she replied.
‘I am as ready as I’m going to be. Let us show Segun that it will take more than a bit of pain to stop
us.’

Kira looked around as her dragon, Longfang, turned to face down the valley towards the exit tunnel. The others were mounted and ready to go. She saw Pell give an impudent
salute in the direction of Segun and his dragon, Widewing. Frustration and anger boiled inside her. Was the boy a complete fool? Baiting a lion was an act of stupidity that had inevitable
consequences. Even the youngest child in her tribe knew that. Taunting Segun was worse. And Pell thought himself to be the natural leader for the quest! Kira ground her teeth as the older boy gave
the word to his dragon, Shadow. The huge night dragon sprang forwards into her take-off run.

BOOK: Longfang
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