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Authors: Chris D'lacey

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BOOK: The Last Dragon Chronicles: Dark Fire
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But in the field where the party ofravens had landed, all was not well. Theywere staggering through the grasses as ifthey’d been drugged.

The first bird to change was thedominant male. He  was tossing his head

back and forth when, suddenly, his skull swelled to twice its size and ears

appeared where ears had never been before. His beak collapsed into a sawn off nose, complete with flared and dribbling nostrils. At the same time his striking blue-black wings shortened dramatically and thickened at the shoulder. Next to go were his spindling legs, replaced by muscle and bulleted claws.

The raven had become a tiny monster.

Leader of a flock of eleven semi-

darklings.

Catching up

David and Zanna arrived back in the

garden, near to the rockery. They were still holding hands. Zanna immediately cast his aside and stalked towards the

house with her arms tightly folded. She was met by Liz, back from Cambridge, who stopped her on the porch with a horrified gasp.

“My goodness! What happened to

you
?”

“Ask him,” said Zanna. “I need a bath.”

Liz’s gaze lingered over David for a moment. The son she’d never had, returned to her. “No wait,” she said, calling Zanna back. “There’s something I need to tell you – both of you.”

“What’s the matter?” David said. In a

couple of strides he was at Liz’s shoulder.

Tears had dried in runs on her cheeks.

“While you were gone, Henry had a

stroke.”

“What?” Zanna said.

David’s eyes fell shut. When he openedthem again he let his gaze rise over thegarden fence and settle kindly on the housenext door, the scene of so many domesticadventures.

Zanna   shook   her   head,   looking

confused. “Is he OK?”

“He was taken to hospital about half an hour ago. It doesn’t look good, I’m sorry. Alexa seems fine about it.”

“Alexa?”   said   Zanna.   “I   don’t

understand?”

“She was with him when it happened,” Liz said. “They were feeding Henry’s fish when he sat down and went ‘a bit wuzzly’, apparently. She held his hand until she heard us come home. She sang dragon lullabies to him. Rather touching, really.”

Zanna’s dark eyes drilled into David’s. “You left her with
 
Henry
? He’s not been

well for weeks!”

David spread his hands. “How was I toknow? Anyway, I thought it was importantto come after you.”

“Some father
 
you
 
are!”

“I saved your life,” he reminded her,calmly.

But Zanna just glared at him and swept

away.

“Oh, dear,” sighed Liz. “That’s not a

good start.” She looked him up and down, then stepped forward and draped her arms around his neck. “I don’t want to know

how you were able to come back or how any of this is possible, I just want to know that you’ll stay with us – please?”

He hugged her sweetly. “For as long as I can. It’s so good to see you again.”

She pulled away, lightly stroking his chest. “Alexa said something about you going to find Gwilanna?”

“Yes. I managed to retrieve this.” He lifted the obsidian out of his pocket. “Be careful, it’s fragile.” He handed it over.

Turning it like a kaleidoscope, Liz said, “Is this light inside it really Gwillan’s tear?”

David shook his head. “The complete

antithesis. What you have in there is pure

evil.”

“But it came from one of my dragons.

From a beautiful creature that wouldn’t

harm a fly.”

“That’s what makes it so dangerous,” he said. “Innocence, turned on its head. That is a spark of dark fire, Liz, the most destructive force in the universe. If the Ix

got hold of it, they’d harm a lot more than

flies.”

Even so, she caressed it softly. “All Iwant is peace – and Gwillan back. Is thereany hope for him, David? Can this… thingbe reversed? Can his life be restored?”

David returned the block safely to hispocket. “I’ll need to seek advice on that.” He quickly changed the subject. “How’s

the baby?”

“Baby?” Liz looked down at herself as if she was surprised to remember she was pregnant. “How did you know?”

He pointed at her tummy and made the shape of a curve with his hand.

“Oh, yes. Silly me.” She tossed her mane of hair. “He’s fine.”

“Him?”

“It’s a boy – according to Gwilanna.”

“Interesting. Got a name for him yet?”

“We’re working on it,” she said.

He laughed at her secrecy and nodding past her said, “I’m surprised his sister hasn’t winkled it out of you.” Lucy had just stepped out of the kitchen. She came walking towards them with her arms tightly crossed and her mouth puckered

inward, as if trying to work out what she should do. How did you greet someone you loved when everyone around you had been saying for the past five years that they were dead? Two yards from him she cast all that aside and launched herself

forward. He caught her and lifted her clean off the porch.

“Oh,” was all she could say.

He said, “Wow,
 
you’ve
 
grown.”

He smiled at Liz. Her bright green eyes were glistening again. She patted his arm. “Come to dinner.” She made it sound like

a hopeful question.

With a puff, David set Lucy down. She put her fingers underneath her nose, embarrassed by the drip that was forming there. She threw up her hands, briefly lost

for words. “We went to Cambridge,” she blurted, as if it was  an alternative form of hello. “Why did you send Gadzooks to that professor?”

His gaze shifted sideways and he shrugged. “I didn’t.”

“But… there was a dragon in his room that wrote things down.”

“The description Professor Steiner gave us sounded very much like Zookie,” said Liz.

“Oh, I’m sure it was him,” said David, moving his toe against the ground. “But he wasn’t sent to Cambridge on my orders. For the moment, he’s in the service of a dragon called G’Oreal.”

“Who’s G’Oreal?” Liz and Lucy spoke together.

David smiled and looked at them in

turn. Give or take a few wrinkles, they could have been twins. “He’s an ice

dragon, the leader of a colony that’s settling in the Arctic. What message did Gadzooks leave?”

“Scuffenbury,” said Lucy, in a quiet voice. “Do you know where it is?”

David looked inside himself, recalling something distant. “Yes. There’s a dragon hidden there.”

“Oh?” said Liz.

“Hidden? Not dead?” asked Lucy.

“In stasis,” David said. “It’s one of the

last twelve.”

Liz and Lucy exchanged a glance. Theyknew the legend of the last twelve dragonsvery well, but to be  suddenly confronted

with evidence of it…

“Are the others in stasis as well?” Liz

asked, massaging her arms with the tips of her fingers.

“And why has Gadzooks told us about this one?” added Lucy.

A green light pulsed from David’s waistcoat pocket. “Let’s talk about it over dinner,” he said.

“What’s that light?” Lucy couldn’t help herself.

“A message,” he said.

Lucy bent forward to peek. “From your
 
watch
 
?” She could see the light glowing round the rim of the casing.

Liz intervened then and took her arm.

“Come on, Lucy. It’s none of your business.” She turned the girl away and

said over her shoulder, “Dinner. Tonight.

Seven-thirty.”

He watched them back to the house.

When they’d stepped inside the kitchen heflipped the watch open. An endless tractof space appeared where a regular watchface would have been. As David stared

into it his eyes seemed to mirror it, until he was part of its spinning matrix. It took him into the aura of a dragon. A dragon that the Inuit Apak had seen. A dragon that David knew as G’Oreal.

The jewelled eyes of the illuminedcreature poured their telepathic gifts intohis mind. “The Wearle awaits  news of

your progress, G’lant.”

David turned away from the house.

Despite   its   powerful   connection  to

dragons, it felt odd to be looking at its sunlit windows while he was being addressed by the name he’d been given in the Fain world, Ki:mera. Thinking in dragontongue he replied, “The sibyl, Gwilanna, is still at large.”

G’Oreal angled his nostrils inwards. A gradation of blue shades rippled across his neck. “Do you need the help of the Wearle to trace her?”

David bowed his head. “I am confident

of success.”

“Then   proceed,   swiftly,”   came G’Oreal’s reply. “Find the dark fire and bring it to the colony. The Ix are probing. It must be destroyed.”

David paused a moment to think. During the course of the conversation his

eyes had adopted the familiar scalene shape of a dragon’s. He turned their force fully northward. “What if the darkness could be transmuted?”

A rumble could be heard as G’Oreal

breathed  in. A  strong  indicator  of

impatience  –  or  displeasure.   “Your mission is clear,” the dragon transmitted, and though he wasn’t using his vocal chords, smoke still jetted from the sides of his mouth. “No tear, once inverted, has ever been reclaimed. Find it.” The

jewelled eyes burned with intent. “Find it

and deliver it north.”

A job for Gwendolen

“Knock, knock. Can I come in?”

Lucy   swivelled   in   her   chair, instinctively   reaching   back   to   her computer to clear the screen of words. Her wallpaper image of Stonehenge took the place of her latest journal entry.

As the door was half-open, David allowed himself entry anyway. “Hi. Am I interrupting anything?”

She shook her head. “Just… homework

and stuff.”

He glanced at Gwendolen, sitting bythe keyboard. The IT dragon blushed andswished her tail. “Can we chat?”

Lucy curled her mouth. “Is it about lastnight?” The family ‘dinner’ had not gone

well. Despite Liz’s plea for everyone to relax and enjoy the ‘reunion’, Zanna had eventually got the hump with David and had stormed out taking Alexa with her.

“No,” he said, peering idly at the bookshelves. Amid Lucy’s impressive collection of fiction were several copies of his own two books:
 
Snigger and the

Nutbeast
 
and
 
White Fire
 
. He smiled and

said, “Got a pen?”

She fished a biro out of a sweet tin and

handed it over. He pulled a pristine copy of
 
White Fire
 
off her shelf,  opened the book at its title page and began to write an inscription.

Frowning, she asked, “What are you doing?”

“Signing.   Makes   them   more

collectible,” he said. He handed it to her

to read.

For Lucy, I’m sorry you had to waitso long. Thank you for believing. David Rain xx

A tear escaped from the cusp of hereyelid.

“Hey,” he said softly, crouching down. “I know I’m nearly famous, but don’t youthink this is over the top? The mascarapolice will be round at any moment.”

Laughing, wet-eyed, she slapped hisshoulder. “I thought you’d never comeback.”

“But I did,” he said, tapping his thumbs together.

She plucked a tissue from a box decorated with photographs of hedgehogs

and squirrels. For a moment, all she could do was stare at him. Then she asked, “Are you one of them, now?”

“Them?” he prompted.

Her gaze jumped nervously away from his face.

“I’m just David,” he said. “Like I always was.” He gave her back the pen. “Listen, I want you to help me, if you will.”

She sniffed and made an eye patch with

her hand. “How?”

“Zanna told me about the attack on your

mum.”

“David, I couldn’t help it. Honest.”

“I know. It’s OK.” He touched her arm.

“I just need to ask you something.”

Her face went through a series of

contortions. “Is this about the Ix?”

“Partly, yes.”

“I hate them,” she said, slamming the pen back into the tin. “They’re always there in a corner of my mind. Pushing me. Taunting me. As if I’m theirs.” She wiped her mouth. “I
 
hate
 
what they made me do to Mum. Sometimes I can’t go to sleep at night because I’m so scared they’ll come back and
 
get
 
me.”

BOOK: The Last Dragon Chronicles: Dark Fire
10.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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