Read Dragon Sleeping (The Dragon Circle Trilogy Book 1) Online

Authors: Craig Shaw Gardner

Tags: #epic fantasy

Dragon Sleeping (The Dragon Circle Trilogy Book 1) (30 page)

BOOK: Dragon Sleeping (The Dragon Circle Trilogy Book 1)
6.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“He ate him!” Rebecca said with surprising vehemence. “Did the same thing happen to Evan?” Joan asked.

“I don’t know,” Constance admitted. “Somehow I sensed that was a little different. I don’t think we’ll see Evan again.”

“So Nunn has taken two of you?” His brother wizard absorbed the energy of others when his own needed replenishing. So much more efficient than eating or drinking. Or so he claimed. Obar repressed a shudder.

“I’m glad he hasn’t taken more,” Obar added after a moment’s pause. “Maybe, now that you’re here, we can all work together. Actually, I came here to find one of your sons.”

The three younger women all looked at him.

“Nick Blake,” Constance said suddenly. “Yes. I’ll fetch him now.”

She disappeared. How, Obar wondered, could she locate Nick when he was still having trouble unraveling Nunn’s spells? Of course, he knew the answer. He just didn’t want to admit it.

The dragon brought people here it could use, people with wild talents that the beast could mold to its own purpose. When Obar and Nunn had come here, so very long ago, both of them had had a certain innate sense of the second world that existed here, that invisible web of the dragon’s power which covered all of the seven islands. This Constance Smith had the same sense, but much more finely tuned than any of those who had gone before her. Nunn and Obar had had to teach themselves the way of the dragon. This Constance seemed ready to walk the web as if she was born to it.

Obar and Nunn had had to grow into their power. What would Constance be able to do once she had discovered the nuances of the dragon?

Obar suddenly felt very cold. Perhaps this time the dragon would truly get its way.

“The children,” one of the other women was saying. Obar snapped from his reverie. It was Rose Dafoe. “What about the other children?”

“Oh, yes,” Obar replied, doing his best to collect himself. “They have all had adventures, but I believe them all to be reasonably safe. Todd and Bobby are with some friends who have gone to fetch Mary Lou. And Jason is with two of the best guardians one can find in this place. No, we’ll all be together soon.”

Constance Smith popped back into their midst, the displaced air making a soft
whump
with her arrival. Soon, Obar imagined, she’d learn to silence that as well. A visibly upset Nick stood by her side.

“I’m sorry it took me a minute to get him back,” Constance said softly. “But he was afraid to come at first. Something about not trusting his sword.”

“Nick!” his mother called.

“Mom!” he said, the sound more of a gasp of pain than a word. “I don’t know!” he murmured. “Have to be—so careful!” He walked slowly toward his mother, his hand firmly pushing the hilt of his sword down into its scabbard.

“I told him not to worry,” Constance continued. “Whatever problems we have, we’ll find a way to correct them.”

Obar was afraid that she was right. So right that it might destroy all his carefully laid plans. He rather liked this Constance Smith and her no-nonsense attitude toward this world she found herself in.

It would be a shame if he had to destroy her.

Thirty

T
he tree man stopped abruptly in front of Jason. “Danger,” the Oomgosh said.

Jason froze. He wished the Oomgosh would tell him what to do. He always felt better when someone else led the way.

Charlie growled at his side. His eyes seemed to glow in this strange half-light.

“Good boy, Charlie,” Jason whispered. “We’ll get whatever it is.”

“It is three short, red-furred creatures,” the Oomgosh explained.

“They are not from here.” He paused, listening. “They are tired and frightened. They have recently lost a battle. And they have weapons.”

“What do you mean, they’re not from here?” Jason asked. “Do they come from the same place I do?”

The Oomgosh shook his great, leafy head. “They come from another of the islands. There are seven of them, clustered together in this part of the world. They are home to a number of different peoples. And not all those people are friendly.”

Jason started when he heard something crashing through the forest. “Should we hide?”

“We could try to avoid them if they were not so close. For someone my size, hiding is a difficulty.”

The Oomgosh paused and frowned again. “Raven should know of this. I will inform the trees.”

Charlie started to bark furiously.

Three red-furred creatures came running from between the trees. They hunched forward as they ran, their long arms almost touching the ground, so that they looked more like apes than men. The lead creature shrieked as it looked ahead, as if it never expected anything like the Oomgosh.

“Enemy!” the red fur exclaimed, waving at Jason and the others with a short spear.

“We do not have to be,” the Oomgosh replied calmly.

“All here are enemies!” the red fur insisted. Its two fellows seemed to shriek in agreement. The three things looked ready to attack.

“Stand behind me,” the Oomgosh told Jason. Jason did as he was told, wishing he could do more. Obar had given Nick a sword. Why hadn’t he given something better to Jason?

Charlie strained forward, his bark turning to a growl deep in his throat. Jason knelt down, putting his arms around the dog’s neck and chest. “Charlie,” he whispered. “Stay. Please stay.”

The dog looked up at him, even wagged his tale slightly, but he didn’t stop growling.

“We do not wish to harm you,” the tree man said to the others. “Why don’t you go home?”

“Home?” The leader of the ape-things grabbed its spear with both hands. “We have no more home. We have been defeated. Nunn no longer needs us.”

At the mention of the magician’s name, the Oomgosh stiffened, looking even taller and firmer than before. “Ah, Nunn.”

“We must kill or be killed!” the leader cried.

“Kill!” one of his companions shouted. All three repeated the word together. “Kill!”

“Let us be done with this, then,” the Oomgosh remarked, stepping forward with one of his great, root-shaped feet. “And let the forest return to peace. Do what you must. Not, of course, that I can be killed.” The three red furs launched their spears. One fell far short; the second landed only inches from Jason and Charlie. The third flew straight for the Oomgosh. He lifted his arm before his face. The spear embedded itself there with a solid sound, like metal lodged in wood. “You are dead!” the lead creature shouted in triumph. “Poison stick!

Poison stick!”

“The Oomgosh does not die,” was the tree man’s reply. “The same cannot be said for those who no longer hold weapons.”

As if all three followed some hidden command, the red-furred things reached for their waists. Jason realized each wore a belt, partially hidden by their coats.

“We have our knives,” the leader remarked as all three waved short but jagged blades. “We have our teeth. We will tear you apart.”

The Oomgosh laughed as he moved more quickly toward his enemy. “Would you tear a tree apart with your teeth? Run away, little men, while you—”

The tree man stopped suddenly, bending forward like a sapling beaten by the wind. He groaned.

“The poison begins!” the red leader cheered. “We have killed you!”

The Oomgosh shuddered, as he once again stood erect. “Then the least I can do is return the favor.”

The tree man stepped forward again. His movement seemed to set Charlie off as well, as the dog leapt forward with a tremendous growl.

Jason was left alone behind them. He clutched the small knife Obar had given him. He would fight these creatures off with his bare hands if he had to.

The creatures ran forward. One leapt for the Oomgosh. The tree man swatted it away with the arm that still held the spear. The Oomgosh stepped forward quickly, placing his great foot on the fallen creature’s chest. Bone snapped as the Oomgosh pushed down, collapsing the thing’s rib cage beneath his great weight.

Jason looked down at the spear embedded in the ground before him.

He didn’t have to use his bare hands.

Charlie ran to meet the second of the rushing things. The dog leapt toward the creature’s chest, his teeth reaching for the red thing’s throat. The creature threw its arms out at the dog, trying to fend off the attack. Charlie’s snapping jaws latched onto one of those arms. Both dog and ape-thing were surrounded by a flash of crimson light, a glow so intense that Jason almost thought the creature of light was visiting them again.

The third thing was rushing toward Jason. He dropped the knife and grabbed the spear, pulling it from the earth with both hands, and turning it quickly so that the poisoned point faced his attacker.

The thing made no attempt to veer away, instead throwing itself forward so that the spear took it straight in the stomach.

“This is far better,” the creature remarked, its voice calmer than before. “We no longer have to live, defeated. Now we die.” The thing went suddenly rigid, its arms reaching for the spear. Then that, too, passed, and the thing slumped. Jason let go of the spear. The lifeless creature fell to the ground.

Jason looked up from his fallen foe and saw that the crimson light had vanished from around Charlie. The dog now stood above a withered blackened thing, like some corpse rescued from a fire. He barked joyfully, as if this was a great game.

The Oomgosh was not so happy. He swayed back and forth above his dead foe, like a tree cut through at its base and ready to fall. “Jason,” his deep voice called, far less forceful than usual. “I need assistance.”

Jason rushed over to the tree man’s side.

The Oomgosh nodded to the ground. “Take the knife.”

Jason looked down to see one of the red furs’ short knives lying near its former owner. It was much longer and sharper than the one he discarded. He bent down and grabbed the hilt in his hand.

“Good,” the Oomgosh continued as Jason straightened again. “Now cut off the limb.”

The tree man held his arm forward. Except that it no longer looked like an arm. It had shriveled and blackened, like a branch riddled with disease.

“We must get rid of the poison before it spreads,” the Oomgosh urged. “Cut it now!”

Jason swallowed. How could he use a knife on a friend?

The Oomgosh moaned. “In a few days, the limb will return,” he managed.

“It’ll grow back?” Jason asked.

“The Oomgosh’s limb will—grow again.” The words were coming more slowly from the tree man’s lips. “Now cut!”

Jason grabbed onto that part of the arm that still resembled human muscle. The skin was rough and hard beneath his fingers. He took the saw-toothed edge of the knife and ran it across the tough skin. It split easily.

“Good,” the Oomgosh managed. He made a constant noise, like a low, mournful hum. Jason wondered if that was something the tree man did to keep from screaming. The sawing motion of the knife went quickly. There seemed to be no bone in this arm at all.

Jason’s mouth was completely dry. Sweat from his forehead ran into his eyes. But he had to keep on sawing—otherwise, even someone as big as the Oomgosh would die.

Suddenly, the knife broke through the hard skin below, and the withered arm fell away. The Oomgosh gasped. There was no blood. Instead, the stump oozed something thick and green.

“It will stop in a moment,” the tree man said. “I thank you. The trees thank you.” With that, the Oomgosh closed his eyes and was still as the forest around him.

Jason stood there for a long moment, trying to get his heart to stop beating so fast. He heard the rustle of leaves in the trees above him. Was this the way the forest spoke?

He wiped the green liquid from the knife with his shirttail. Now that he’d used the knife like this, he figured it was his to keep. He walked a few feet away from the red-furred corpse and the withered limb. But only a few feet. He had no energy left. He sat heavily against one of the great trees.

He felt something wet. Charlie was licking him, as if nothing at all was wrong.

Except, when Jason looked up to the dog’s eyes, the deep brown pupils had been replaced by two orbs of glowing red.

Thirty-O
ne

“P
retty Mary Lou,” the creature of light whispered. “Let me touch you.”

“Keep away,” she replied in a much louder voice. “If you don’t, you’ll be sorry.” Mary Lou looked to either side, her eyes only leaving Zachs for a second. She didn’t even know what she was looking for. If only the prince would come back. Or the People. Or anybody.

When she looked back, the creature was much closer.

“Your smooth skin would feel so good beneath my fingers,” the creature murmured softly. “Your long hair would be so lustrous, reflected in my light. Let me caress you. My light will surround you.”

She stared at him, afraid that if she looked away again he would overwhelm her. “I have friends here!” The softer Zachs’ voice became, the louder hers was in reply. “They’ll make you sorry you were ever born!”

“I wasn’t born—exactly,” Zachs continued, his glowing form gliding across the forest floor. “How could I ever be sorry around someone like you? You don’t know how good you can feel, until we get really close.”

The creature reached out an amber finger. Mary Lou jerked her arm away.

“No!” she shrieked. “Help me!”

“Some creatures can certainly be tiresome,” the prince said by her ear.

Mary Lou was so grateful that she almost collapsed. Her rescuer had returned. This time it felt like he came straight out of a fairy tale!

“You!” Zachs screamed.

“Then we’ve met?” the prince inquired.

The creature made shooing motions with its bright orange hands. “You’re supposed to be dead!”

“No doubt I am,” the prince replied smoothly. “Pity for you that I’m still around.” He chuckled. “I almost went exploring, until I sensed you in the neighborhood. One has so many choices when one is granted his freedom.”

“How could you know?” the creature whined. “No one knows!

Zachs is fast. Zachs is clever. Zachs is silent.”

The prince shook his head. “We are more similar than you think. A creature like you lives partially in my world as well.” He took a step toward Zachs. “That is, if you can call this living.”

BOOK: Dragon Sleeping (The Dragon Circle Trilogy Book 1)
6.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Demon Lord by Morwood, Peter
A Rope--In Case by Lillian Beckwith
Before and Afterlives by Christopher Barzak
Slave Ship by Frederik Pohl
Wolf3are by Unknown
Action: A Book About Sex by Amy Rose Spiegel
The Darcys of Pemberley by Shannon Winslow
Sister of the Bride by Beverly Cleary
Chloe by McLeish, Cleveland