Read Here There Be Dragonnes Online

Authors: Mary Brown

Tags: #Science Fiction

Here There Be Dragonnes

BOOK: Here There Be Dragonnes
13.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Here There Be Dragonnes
Mary Brown

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2003 by Mary Brown
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
A Baen Books Original Omnibus
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, NY 10471
www.baen.com
ISBN: 0-7434-3596-6
Cover art by Carol Heyer
First omnibus printing, March 2003
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Brown, Mary, 1929–

Here there be dragonnes / by Mary Brown.
p. cm.
Previously published as three separate novels: The unlikely ones, Pigs don't
fly, Master of many treasures.
ISBN 0-7434-3596-6 (pbk.)
1. Young women—Fiction. 2. England—Fiction. 3. Rings—Fiction. I. Title.

PR6052.R6143 H47 2003
823'.914—dc21
2002038397
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Produced by Windhaven Press, Auburn, NH
Printed in the United States of America

Here There Be Happy Readers

"What a splendid, unusual and intriguing fantasy quest! You've got a winner here." —
Anne McCaffrey

"I think
The Unlikely Ones
is going to be a new classic for generations of young people to fall in love with. I already have."

Marion Zimmer Bradley

"Beautiful . . . compelling; I got caught reading [
Pigs Don't Fly
] late at night, and lost sleep, because it did what fiction seldom does: held my attention beyond sleep." —
Piers Anthony

"Summer is a fully realized character . . . and there are generous dollops of humor to balance the tenser moments." —
Starlog

"Delightful!" —
Kliatt

"A captivating fantasy, with a lovable cast of characters." —
VOYA

* * *
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Best known for her popular quest fantasies, Mary Brown also wrote the historical romances
Playing the Jack
and
The Heart has Its Reasons
, the post-apocalyptic fantasy novel
Strange Deliverance
, and a fourth Unicorn Ring novel,
Dragonne's Eg
. Several of her fantasy novels were selected by the American Library Association for their Best Books for Young Adults list, by the New York Public Library for their annual list of Books for the Teen Age, and by the Young Adult Library Services Association for their Best Books for Young Adults list. Before becoming a full-time writer, she had been an artist's model, actress, caterer, and store clerk. She wrote her novels in a home located high in the scenic mountains of Spain, which she shared with her husband, cats, tortoises, and assorted fish and pigeons. Her death in 1999 was a loss to the many readers of her quirky and fascinating brand of fantasy.

BAEN BOOKS by MARY BROWN

Strange Deliverance
Here There Be Dragonnes
(omnibus)
The Unlikely Ones
Pigs Don't Fly
Master of Many Treasures
Dragonne's Eg

The Unlikely Ones

To the then of
"
C
"
and
"
Ly,
"
my father and my mother and the now of Christopher, their great-grandson.
 

Acknowledgements

My thanks as usual to:
My husband, Peter;
My editor, Paul Sidey;
My typist, Anne Pitt.
Especial thanks to the author
A. C. H. (Anthony) Smith,
Without whose encouragement this book
would not have been written, and
Finally, last but not least,
Love and thanks to "Wellington,"
Once again my companion and also this time
Invaluable referee on the peculiarities of
animal behaviour . . . 
 

The Beginning
The Thief in the Night

The cave itself was cosy enough as caves go: sandy floor, reasonably draught-proof, convenient ledges for storing treasure, a rain/dew pond just outside, a southerly aspect and an excellent landing strip adjacent, but the occupant was definitely not at his best and the central heating in his belly not functioning as it should. Granted he must have been all of two hundred and fifty years old but that was merely a youngling in dragon-years, measuring as he did a man-and-a-half (Western Hominid Standard) excluding tail, and at his age he should have been flowing with fiery, red health.

He was not. He was blue, and that was not good. Dragons may be red, scarlet, crimson, vermilion, rose-madder at a pinch, purple, gold, silver, orange, yellow, even certain shades of green—but not blue.

He lay in a muddled heap on the cave floor, not even bothering to arrange his tail into one of the regulation turns, hitches or knots, listlessly turning over and over the pile of pebbles that heaped the space before him. The dull, bluish-purple glow that emanated from his scales illuminated only dimly the confines of the cave but made mock-amethysts and sham-sapphires of the grey and white stones he sorted: a semiprecious illusion. Nothing could transform them into a ruby from a sacred temple of Ind, an emerald from the rainforests of Amazonia
;
a
diamond from the Great Desert, a sapphire from the Southern Seas or a great, glowing pearl from the oyster-mouth of the grey Northern River. And that was the trouble: they were pebbles, nothing more, the insulting substitute left by The Thief . . .

For the three thousand two hundred and fifty-fifth time or so he went over in his mind that dreadful day, some seven years ago, when he had sallied forth all unsuspecting for the Year's-Turn Feast. Over the few years previously spent gold-and-silver-gathering in this retrospectively accursed, damp, boggy, sunless island, he had made the cave his principal headquarters and had twice-yearly, shortest day and longest, received his tribute of roast mutton, pork or beef from the village below (after he had explained that raw maidens were not in his line). He had good-humouredly tolerated the current yokel dragon-slayer brandishing home-made spear, sword or some-such who insisted on defending a symbolic maiden staked out in front of his feast; he even retreated the regulation ten paces in mock-submission before insisting on his roast. He had flown forth that day secure in the knowledge that he need only wait for the better weather of the equinox to return Home with the assorted extras of gold helm, breastplate, mail, dishes, brooches, bowl, buckles and coin (there was too much silver to carry) and the glory of the necessary jewels, and was urged on with a healthy hunger for his last tribute. The side of beef had, he remembered, been slightly underdone, and he had had to barbecue it a little himself to bring out that nice charred flavour that added scrunch to bones and singe to fat. He remembered, too, that he had obligingly restarted the damp, smoky fire on which his rather unflattering effigy was regularly cremated, and had even joined in the dancing and jollification that always succeeded his surrogate demise, and so it had been well after midnight when he had returned to the cave, replete, sticky and tired, to find—

The end of his world, and a heap of pebbles.

* * *

His quest had been specific: one each of ruby, emerald, diamond, sapphire and lastly, the pearl. And any incidentals by way of gold or silver, of course. The ruby had been an easy snatch-and-grab, but the emerald had required travel at the worst time of year over seas grey and wrinkled as an elephant's hide; the diamond had proved troublesome and the sapphire fiendishly difficult, but one expected a gradation of difficulty in all quests, and he had been well within the hundred-year limit when the fresh-water oyster had yielded the final treasure, his personal dragon-pearl beyond price, the largest and most perfect he had ever seen, mistletoe-moon-coloured and perfectly cylindrical.

And now? And now he remembered as vividly as ever his return to the furtive sweat-smell of excited theft in the night, an unidentified shadow that left only a silhouette of the sorcery that had accompanied it. He had roared out into the dark, his whole body twisting into an agonized coruscation of shining scales whose thunderous passage through the gaps between the mountain and the hills had left a rain of split rocks and splintering shale cascading in a black torrent to the valleys beneath. But there had been no sight, no sound of the thing he sought, only the taint of a thing that crawled, that flew, that walked, that ran; a shape intangible, a sniggering darkness that fled faster than he could pursue and left no trail to follow. And this—this Thief-without-a-name—had stolen his jewels, his quest, his very life, for he could not return Home without those precious things. The gold was still there, true, but it was merely incidental: every dragon collected gold as a child might gather shells from the shore, but the jewels were special. They were the confirmation of his maturity, the price of his transition from Novice to Master-Dragon, and without these proofs of his quest, the badges of his success, he was condemned to die. Oh, not a sudden execution, that perhaps he would have welcomed: rather an exile's slow withering, an embering and ashing of the once-bright fires, a shrivelling of scales from calcined bones, a fossil's hardening in the remorseless silt of the years. And if he attempted to return without his treasure there would be the turned shoulder, the stifled snigger, the, in itself, mortal loss of face that would be death in life. And he could not bear that: better to die a suicide of wasting, cold and hunger on this wretched Black Mountain far from home; better to suffer the slow pangs of winter and starvation than to return disgraced.

For a moment his tired brain flickered with pictures of his bright egg-brothers and sisters, a remembrance of sky-soaring flight, of play among the circumscribed cloudlets of his youth; once again he saw the heaven-turn of pagoda roof, heard the dissonant tonk of temple bells, felt the yellow sun of the yellow people gild his scales, tasted fire in his mouth, smelt sandalwood and cedar, and all at once he let out such a howl that for the first time in many, many moons the peasants in the village some two miles below heard him quite clearly; a cry of such piercing despair that it slunk under their ill-fitting doors like the keening of hound condemned to out-kennel in the worst of wolf-pelt winters. And those hearing crossed themselves, touched lucky charms, threw placatory offerings on the smoky fires, whichever pleased whatever God, gods or Fate to which their superstition turned. Then they cursed the dragon, near-forgotten in the years of silence, and at the same time were glad he still lived, for he was their very own living legend. They wished him gone and they wished him come, wished him dead and wished him living, all at one and the same time, like all disconcerting, uncomfortable, prestige-making myths-come-alive that they could neither control nor explain.

But this time the echoes of the dragon's despair went farther than the confines of the little village beneath the Black Mountain. Something of it travelled, thinner and more attenuated the farther it went, and eventually reached an ear just waking from sleep, an ear that had been seeking a diversion such as this. The owner of the ear thought about it for a moment, weighed the pros and cons, and then bestirred himself to look for a miracle.

And found it, in the unlikeliest septet imaginable . . .

 

 

The Gathering: One
The Unicorn and the Prince

He was bathing in a rainbow, the rainbow made by the long fall of waters, and the colours shone in bands of coloured light across the white screen of his hide. Long mane and tail rippled like silver seaweed in the clear waters and the golden, spiralled horn flashed and sparkled in the light. Tender pink of belly and gums assumed a rosy glow, the long white lashes were spiky with water and the cloven hooves stamped the spray with sheer enjoyment until it splintered into mist. He was a splendid creature, at the height of his powers, all white, pink and gold except for the dark, deep, beautiful eyes which held a colour all their own that none had been able to name, but that reminded some of the sky at night, others of dark, new-turned earth, a few of the tender greening spring slips of fir and pine.

The falls dropped hissing to foam about his hooves, the sun flickered and shone on the tumbling waters, a crowd of gnats danced in crazy circles above the ripples, a dragonfly, iridescent green and purple, darted away to the tall reeds on the left; a silver fish clooped a lazy arc downstream, not really caring that the mayfly were out of reach; kingfisher flashed blue to his nest in the bank and an otter drifted by on its back, paws tucked up on its chest, creamy belly-fur warmed by the sun, ruddered tail lazily steering. All was right with the world, all was beautiful, all was high summer and yet, suddenly, like the shadow of a bird across the sun, black and fleeting, an alien fear touched the unicorn and he knew that something unknown threatened his world.

Flinging up his head, the droplets scattering like diamonds from his thick, floss-silk mane, he snuffed the air through flaring nostrils, the long, pointed ears with their furred inners laid back against the small delicate head. There was no strange sound or scent, yet still a feeling lingered in the air. As he stepped from the stream, the waters flowed away from rounded shoulders and back to trickle into the plumed fetlocks above the bifurcated hooves. A green-white shadow, he slipped into the forest, bending in and out of the drowse-leafed trees, his hooves leaving no trace on the soft turf. Then, leaving the deciduous fringes for the quiet corridors of conifer, he heard it. A thin sound, a catch of music as plainly faery as himself, that stole like mist through the silent, bare trunks of the trees. Hurrying now, desperate at what he would find, he brushed heedlessly through the forest until he came to the clearing where he had left his prince, and the sudden sunlight shone upon a scene so unexpected, so bizarre, that he checked back violently on his haunches, hooves skidding on the grass.

BOOK: Here There Be Dragonnes
13.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Ignored by Bentley Little - (ebook by Undead)
The Pretender by Kathleen Creighton
Feather in the Wind by Madeline Baker
La Guerra de los Dioses by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickmnan
Love Off-Limits by Whitney Lyles
Love Everlasting by Speer, Flora
Foreigners by Caryl Phillips