Not every dragon has wings…
Ruled by the foolish King Albion, the Kingdom of Arellia already faces wars from all sides. But the King is preparing for the greatest battle of all – a war of total extermination against the peaceful Dragon Wyrd. Along with her dragon siblings, the weak and wingless dragon-girl Ashanti finds herself in the centre of a fight for everything she has ever known. Swept up in the chaos are high-born mathematician Cannel, inexperienced mage Bianca, and unhappy soldier-son Kazut. Can a group of misfit children thrown together by chance band together to stop the war and save the dragons? And will Ashanti ever uncover the mysterious secret of her past?
Get ready for a journey through a world of kings and soldiers, mages and mathematicians, ancient spirits and impertinent hats…
Oh, and dragons, of course.
Targeted Age Group:: 8-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I've loved reading fantasy pretty much from the moment I first worked out how letters string together into words – and for as long as I've been reading stories about dragons and magic, I've also been telling them. Writing a book, though… that was a step up. I knew that if I was going to turn one of my stories into a novel, it would take a long time and a lot of work, so it would have to be something I was passionate about. Enter Dragonheart – an idea dreamed up with the help of some of my best friends when I was only twelve years old, kept buried in the back of my mind for who knows how long. Something about it stood out from my other ideas – the plot felt more original, the characters more compelling – but more than anything, this was a story which I wished I could have read, back when I was nine or ten years old and searching everywhere for dragon books. So I started writing, and kept at it, sometimes with breaks for days or weeks or even months – and now, here it is.
Prologue – Lost and Found
Year the 2nd of the reign of King Alban, Firstwinter 14th
The wind howled through the mountain pass, carrying a flurry of snow. Beneath the weight of the heavy grey-white clouds, a blizzard raged. Mired in its centre, a bright speck struggled against the storm.
Squinting against the snow, the figure brushed tumbled red hair from her wind-reddened cheeks and trudged onwards, wrapping her bright scarlet shawl tighter around the bundle she carried and dropping one hand to touch the sword at her hip, as if for reassurance. Her feet slid on the icy ground, the vicious snowstorm conspiring with her failing strength to slow her progress to a crawl.
Her filmy white dress clung soaked to her slim frame, her skin growing steadily paler beneath the windburn; and as a sudden gust sent her stumbling, she muttered words no polite Princess should have known.
Falinrov winged through the storm, his scaled skin the same colour as the blizzard. As his amber eyes scanned the shadows for trouble or prey, a squalling cry rose, thin and weak against the roaring wind. He paused, searching for the source. There! A splash of red, like a drop of blood in the snow. Swooping closer to investigate, he realised it was a human lying frozen on the ground. Her red shawl had caught his attention.
For a second, he deliberated. Eating humans was considered immoral – some said they were nearly as intelligent as dragons – but the winter was harsh, and the Wyrd was hungry. He unhooked the sword from her waist, and just then the cry rose again. Bending closer, he saw a small bundle wrapped in the shawl. A hatchling!
Decided, he plucked the bundled child from the frozen shawl with two claws, accidentally slicing through the fabric. With his other paw, he scooped a hole in the snow for the mother human’s body. Muttering a short prayer to the Winter Lady for the safety of the human’s spirit, the white drake sprang into the sky and headed back to the Wyrd.
Chapter 1 – Other Lives
Year the 13th of the reign of King Alban, Thirdsummer 23rd
Cannel had only been in class for twenty-three point two minutes and if she’d had to sit through another forty-six of them, she might’ve just died.
In fact, at the time she had calculated a six-point-one per cent chance of dying from sheer boredom. Admittedly, that was not a large percentage, but it was still riskier than, say, leaning out of a second-floor palace window. Something Cannel definitely avoided doing out of intelligent mathematically-based risk avoidance. It had nothing to do with fear, and anyone who suggested such a thing was welcome to partake in some window-leaning themselves, preferably when Cannel was conveniently positioned behind them.
Anyway, the risk of dying of boredom was sort of immaterial (loath as she was to admit it, the statistic was probably wrong anyway due to insufficient data). It was just fun to calculate, especially when compared to cross-stitching or ribbon-arranging or letter-writing or whatever else the unspeakably irritating Mrs Genevieve had been attempting to teach in the dusty palace classroom on that particular afternoon.
Unfortunately, Mrs Genevieve, the most useless and screechy-voiced old bat to ever waste a breath of air, had obviously been just as bored by her own lesson and had no qualms about pausing it to give Cannel a ‘stern talking-to’ about ‘good manners’ and ‘paying attention’.
Cannel wouldn’t really have minded sitting through her third ‘stern talking-to’ of the week, fifteenth of the month (including the one for pushing that kid out the window) and one-hundred and thirty-second of the year (one-hundred and thirty-third if you included that one from the King, which was more of a shouting match). At least it cut the lesson short!
This time, though, Mrs Genevieve – curse her and her flabby knees! – had taken it upon herself to confiscate the papers Cannel had been working on. And not just the death-probability calculations, or the list of IOUs from all the boys she had beaten at chess – oh no. Mrs Genevieve just had to confiscate the very important papers that were one-hundred-percent certainly not stolen from the desk of the Royal Mathematician and Astronomer, and which had absolutely definitely nothing to do with the package he had received only yesterday postmarked from the world’s greatest library.
Of course, if that was what they were, no-one could possibly blame her for wanting just a little peek! Not when this new system of mathematics was so fascinating, with its letters and symbols standing in for numbers – that is, as long as she made sure to give them back…
So of course, after class ended, Cannel had to wait in the corridor outside while Mrs Genevieve banged around tidying her desk with much huffing and puffing about “disrespectful young imps” wearing “inappropriate clothing”. Cannel sometimes wished people would shut up about her clothes. So what if only boys wore breeches – they were perfectly decent! And they were always clean and ironed too, along with her tunics and socks and handkerchiefs…
After a million years (or two-point-nine minutes to be precise, which Cannel always was), Mrs Genevieve finally bustled out of the room and off down the dark-panelled hallway without even noticing her most troublesome student loitering by the door. Cannel had headed straight back inside, wrinkling her nose at the constant smell of chalk dust which sparkled in the light pouring in through the high leaded windows. In her opinion, dust should be outlawed.
She slipped past the assorted stools and benches where the students sat, accidentally knocking one of the writing-boards which, in the girls’ class at least, were more often used for embroidery. Mrs Genevieve’s desk was made of delicate whitewashed wood patterned with flowers and curlicues – exactly the kind of nonsense anyone would expect from her. Cannel ducked behind it, rummaging through the drawers.
Nothing to see here…
"What are you doing?"
Cannel whirled, shoving the drawer closed with her foot. Flicking a wayward strand of short dark hair out of her face, she hoped she didn't look as guilty as she felt.
"P-p-princess! Um, what a surprise?"
Ugh. Why did it have to be her? I can’t pretend to suck up at the best of times. She trailed off as the Princess Adrianne's glittery dark eyes lit up with glee.
"Are you stealing?” she asked, as if she couldn't believe her luck. She probably couldn’t. This sort of thing was bread and butter to Adrianne. Cannel had been ‘lucky’ enough to never end up in a direct confrontation with the demonic brat before, and she couldn’t resist the opportunity.
So, “Stealing what? This is a classroom, not the royal treasury!” she retorted.
“Then why’s your face red, little gutter scum?” Adrianne smirked, but her own flushed face gave her away. Cannel grinned. Ah, the satisfaction of antagonising my enemies…
The logical part of her knew that she would be better off just letting Adrianne spit her pathetic insults until the puffed-up little royal grew bored and left, but she couldn’t just leave a comment like that without a scathing retort, could she?
“Gutter scum, huh? Isn’t that a bit rich coming from a little rat like you? The same rat who accidentally washed her face with frogspawn instead of soap?”
Adrianne swelled. “That was absolutely not my fault – and how dare you speak to me in such a manner! Don’t you know who I am?”
“I can't believe you said that with a straight face. I mean, 'in such a manner'! Who says that? Dweeb!” Cannel scoffed. “And the whole ‘don’t you know who I am’ – so cliché! You say it every day. I know who you are – a rat!”
It was hardly her best insult, but at this point she might as well stick with it.
The princess hissed with fury. “You little-"
She paused, took a breath, and visibly composed herself. “I don't have to argue with you,” she said. “You're just a smelly little thief!"
Cannel bristled. “Excuse you! I am not smelly!"
She considered that a bit rich, seeing as she washed three-point-four times as often as anyone else she knew, but that was beside the point. Surely Adrianne isn’t actually self-centred enough to not recognise me? I live in the same palace as her, for crying out loud!
"I'm not a thief either,” she added belatedly.
Adrianne’s smile was filled with spite. “What's that then?” she asked, crossing the room in two quick steps and snatching the notebook from Cannel's hand.
"That’s mine! No, stop it, give it here!"
She tried to grab it, but Adrianne held it effortlessly out of reach, laughing. She flipped through it, blocking Cannel with her shoulder as the shorter girl snatched at the book.
She flipped through it, scowling at the pages crammed with notes and symbols in Cannel’s tiny, looping hand. Most of it was just work from arithmetic lessons she had either attended or spied on, but mixed in were titbits of information gathered from years of listening at doors and hiding in libraries. More than just a fat little leather-wrapped stack of pages, the book was a backup of her brain, a lifetime of collected knowledge.
“Are you a spy? Is that what this is?”
“I’m not a spy! I live here!” Cannel said, outraged. The nerve! She was practically as well-born as the Princess – not that it mattered when she was so obviously intellectually superior to the little snot.
“What does that matter? You are so a spy!” Adrianne taunted, waving the notebook. “A dirty, smelly, lying, thieving spy!”
As the notebook danced teasingly past her nose, Cannel shot out her arm and snatched it. Adrianne tugged back with surprising strength, her shouts of “Let go, you fool!” and “Don’t you realised who I am?” at odds with her willingness to kick Cannel in the shins with her surprisingly pointy satin slippers.
Oh, you want to play it like that?
Cannel grabbed a handful of Adrianne’s dark-brown hair – so like Cannel’s own, although a lot longer – and the princess let out a shriek of fury.
“Guards! Guards! How dare you attack me! Guards!”
Taking advantage of her distraction, Cannel snatched her notebook back and added an elbow to the stomach for good measure. Adrianne fell to the floor, her ruffled dress crushed beneath her.
Yet despite her (surely grievous) injuries, the princess was smirking. For an instant, Cannel was offended. All right, maybe the injuries weren’t that bad. Maybe they were mostly inflicted on the dress (which probably deserved it too). Yes, Cannel might be more suited to plotting in corners than a straight-up fight, but surely she had at least done a little damage?
But all of a sudden, she remembered who she was fighting. Not only was Adrianne a prissy prig of the highest order, she was also the second-best person at sneaky plotting that Cannel knew. Which meant she was smiling because she had an evil plan.
At this moment Cannel remembered the third important thing about who she was fighting. Because as well as being a prig and a plotter, Adrianne was also a princess. And princesses were under the official protection of the sixty-two guards who patrolled the palace at all times.
Four of whom had just rounded the corner.
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Jessica Kitchen is a Dragonfriend and a lover of all books, especially fantasy (although she also has a soft spot for sci-fi). After reading and writing, her favourite activities include drawing, messing about in the garden, and playing multiple musical instruments with varying levels of skill. Her favourite element is fire (if you work in fours) or Carbon (if you prefer the full 118) and her favourite punctuation is probably the excellent exclamation mark. She currently lives in New South Wales, Australia (complete with kangaroos in the backyard), although to date she has also resided in England, India, Dubai, and a few other places. Dragonheart is her first published book.