Read The Author's Blood Online

Authors: Jerry B. Jenkins,Chris Fabry

Tags: #JUVENILE FICTION / Religious / Christian, #JUVENILE FICTION / Religious / Christian

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BOOK: The Author's Blood
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Tusin awoke to the smell of fish sizzling on the fire. A man in a hood sat with his back to him and turned a spit.

“Hello, friend,” Tusin said, hoping he was right.

“Good morning,” the man said in a hushed tone as if not to wake the others. “I hope you're hungry.”

“Where did you get the fish?”

“Just over the hill,” the stranger said. “And I found the skolers growing near the pine grove.”

“Amazing,” Tusin said. “I've tried to catch fish in that stream for days. And had I known the skolers were there, we wouldn't have been reduced to the berries and plants. . . .” His voice trailed off, and he moved closer to the stranger. “May I ask why you have come to this place?”

“To help.”

“You're a little late,” Starbuck said, stretching and rising. He headed to the fire, grabbed a skoler, then dropped it and shook his hand, yelping.

The stranger quickly poured water over the burn.

Starbuck muttered something and walked toward the stream.

“He hasn't been the same since his parents were killed. None of us have been the same.” Tusin sighed. “Wave after wave of the Dragon's flyers came at us. Those who survived had to face the vaxors. . . .” He closed his eyes, trying to blot the images from his mind. “Some survivors were taken away. I heard one vaxor talk about rebuilding the coliseum.

“Most difficult is that I thought we would be protected. I believed the Wor—” Tusin caught himself before giving away his true allegiance. “I thought someone would come to lead us. But as you can see . . .” He waved across the landscape of graves.

The stranger spoke. “I understand your grief, but you are followers of the true King; are you not?”

Tusin leaned forward, trying to see the man's face. “How do I know you have not been sent by the Dragon? How do we know you're not here to wipe us from the earth now that we've buried the last of our friends?”

Rogers awoke and stretched. “This is a good man. He helped bury Humphrey.”

Batwing alighted on a log not far from the stranger. “What kind of man comes to us with an offering of food?”

“Are you not hungry?” the stranger said. “Do you want something else?”

“Justice, perhaps,” Tusin said.

“We do not mean to be ungrateful,” Batwing said.

“I understand,” the stranger said. “And where is Rotag?”

Tusin looked at him in stunned silence.
How does he know about Rotag?
“There is not enough water here.”

“Eat,” the stranger said. “We can talk later.”

When he handed over the food, Tusin grabbed the man's arm. “Who
are
you?”

With that, the stranger pulled his sword from his scabbard, and Tusin dropped to the ground, quivering. Batwing hovered out of reach. But when the man pulled back his hood and they saw the sad but smiling Wormling, they whooped and shouted and patted him on the back.

“You must tell us everything!” Tusin said. “Where did you go?”

“How did you escape the fire of the Dragon?” Batwing said.

“Where have you been so long?” Rogers said.

“With the help of my friend Mucker, I was able to elude the Dragon at the White Mountain. He thought he had killed me. When I reached the Highlands, I learned of an attack there—”

“The fourth portal,” Tusin said, wide-eyed, ahead of the story. “You've breached the fourth portal, haven't you?”

“I've done more than that, my friend,” the Wormling said. “I've made a discovery that could change everything.”

Batwing said, “What sort of discovery?”

“I could tell you, but I don't want to endanger you. Suffice it to say that the true King is still in control. You must believe this and everything you have heard from
The Book of the King
.”

“Read us more,” Rogers said.

“Yes!” Batwing said.

“More promises from the book?” Starbuck said, having returned from the river. He stared at the Wormling with fierce eyes. “You told my father he would sing at the defeat of the Dragon. You promised this.”

“That is my plan still,” the Wormling said.

“How?” Starbuck said. “The voices of my parents cry out from their graves, but no one hears.”

“I'm sorry you had to go through this, but I have good news.” The Wormling rose to touch his shoulder.

Starbuck stepped back. “Good news in a graveyard?”

“The best news can come from here, for this is not all there is. I once thought that where I lived was all that existed, that only the things I could see and feel were real and the rest was just an illusion. But now I know there is more than we can see and that even those who die can live again through the power of the King.”

“How can this be?” Starbuck said. “Can your sword bring a person back from the dead?”

The Wormling placed his hand on the boy's shoulder, and this time Starbuck did not pull away.

“It will take more than a sword, but I have good news. Every word of the King's book will come to pass. Every promise will be kept. And when you are reunited with your family, the joy will be deeper than you've ever known.”

“And there will be a wedding,” Starbuck said.

The Wormling smiled. “One to end all weddings. And no matter what happens between now and then, you must trust the King. Will you?”

Wings flapped and they all looked up to see Machree, the bird that Watcher and the Wormling had nursed back to health, fly away into the distance.

“I had no idea he survived,” Tusin said. “How long could he have been there?”

The Wormling doused the fire with water and soil. “We must leave now. Follow me.”

When telling a story, it is impossible to describe everything or you would have a book (or in our case, a series) that would never end. Telling a story is like painting a small section of a big canvas and showing what is going on in that tiny part of the bigger world.

However, some parts of our canvas need to be illumined, and many of those portions are quite dark and foreboding, for they tell the depths of deceit to which a heart will plunge. A spotlight on the armies of the Dragon, spread throughout the Lowlands, would show how brutal and uncaring they are. Flying creatures who destroy homes and kill people. Vaxors who overturn furniture, chase families into corners, and plunder valuables. Survivors herded to encampments where they are treated more like livestock than the precious creations they truly are.

Evil does not treat the precious with respect and dignity—rather, it seeks revenge on the creator by mistreating his creation.

On our canvas we could go anywhere—to the Highlands where enemy forces are amassing in attack formation, to the hole in the earth where Mr. Page (the King of the world) has gone, or to where Clara and Connie have retreated—specially prepared by the King himself for just such an attack.

But we must take you to a far, unseen corner of our canvas. Here the Dragon has built a shrine to himself and what he believes will be his eventual reign over the entire created order. It has been heretofore unseen because he has allowed no one into this difficult-to-reach, dank, dreary, Dragon dwelling. Of his council, only RHM knows of its existence, and not even he knows its purpose. Other than him and the Dragon's servants here, only one other living being is aware of this place (we are not counting the captives held here, of course), and we shall meet this being shortly.

The Dragon has slipped away even from those he has charged with watching his every move, and he now flies high above the Lowlands, grinning and rehearsing what life will be like now that his plans have worked perfectly and his worries are over. All that he has hoped has come to pass, except displaying the Sword of the Wormling on his wall.

There remains but one event that will seal the fate of the enemy of the Dragon, and that is the presentation of the body of the enemy's offspring in the coliseum. Better still would be to feature the enemy's living Son so the Dragon could humiliate and abuse and mistreat this last remnant of the opposition.

This was not all that caused the Dragon's heart to soar as he flew through the murky clouds, scaly wings propelling him toward his secret hideaway. When he had secured the book the vile creature had carried, the Dragon had read how to achieve immortality by using the very words of the enemy. That gave him particular pleasure, because while it was one thing to grind an enemy into the ground like a bug, it was quite another to use the enemy's own weapon against him, whether sword, spear, or words.

The sun faded behind the Dragon, and the red moon rose before him. He had seen a bloody moon only once before—on the night the enemy's Son had been taken from the Lowlands to the Highlands. This had to be a sign that the time of his own ascension had come. Even the moon was worshipping him as the king over all.

The desolate landscape below reminded the Dragon that this area was populated with horrid creatures that lived in freedom but ultimately depended on him for everything. He would herd them all into one place and use them for his amusement.

When the outline of the palace came into view, he blew a blast of fire into the air to announce his approach. From the topmost window came an answering blast, and the Dragon roared.

Drucilla groomed herself (if you could call it that) in the dirty glass, batted her eyes, and awaited her beloved. She called the Dragon that because she knew it was what he wanted to hear, but it was not what she felt. With his annihilation of her family long ago, she was thankful she had been allowed to live. At first she had despaired, wondering if life was even worth living, but now she had a reason, and it had nothing to do with her relationship with the Dragon.

He flew onto a parapet and blasted his fire again, as if trying to impress her. She bowed, as any good dragon wife would do, and he entered the upper room.

“My lady,” he breathed in a low, gravelly voice, “how lovely you look tonight.”

“Thank you,” she said. “Are you hungry?”

“Do you still have a supply of villagers in the lower dungeon?” he said.

“A few. But most of them spoiled. A pity. They would have made a good snack.”

The Dragon waved. “No matter. When I look at your beauty, it makes my hunger subside.”

Truly, we have seen many sickening things in our travels through the kingdom, but perhaps this is the most stomach-turning. The evil beast who has committed violent act after violent act tenderly took the wing of Drucilla and pressed his face to hers, cheek to cheek, in a display of affection. It is good you cannot see this, and we will refrain from describing it further or you might have difficulty ever eating again.

The Dragon pulled back and gazed into Drucilla's eyes. “What news have we of the treasures?”

* * *

Drucilla took the Dragon via the long hallway to the other end of the palace and a door guarded by a long-fanged creature with ripples of muscles and claws that snapped open as soon as something moved in the hallway. It let out a low growl and then roared, the hair on its back standing up.

The Dragon growled as well, startled by the ferocity of the beast.

Drucilla calmed the guard with a soothing tone. “It's all right. We need to look inside a moment.”

Inside, three fireplaces were tended by a small, female creature. Stacks of firewood were positioned near the fireplaces, and in the middle of the room sat a wooden trough filled with hay and straw. Atop the straw lay black and brown oblong orbs that seemed to pulsate with the heat.

The Dragon flapped a wing to lessen the heat. “Do you trust that
thing
to watch them?”

“Her life depends on keeping the temperature even in here,” Drucilla said. “As do the lives of her family members in the depths.”

The Dragon chuckled.

Drucilla brushed a wing over the egg basket as the firelight danced off the sides of them and made eerie reflections on the ceiling and walls. “When I was a little girl, my mother had me watch the hatchlings and make sure the room stayed warm.”

“They all hatched?” the Dragon said, feigning interest despite that it was he who had killed Drucilla's family—cutting them down like weeds.

“Only one made it,” Drucilla said.

“Don't be sad, my dear,” the Dragon droned. “The next generation will grow up and call you the most wonderful mother of all time, for you have brought life to a dream.”

She sighed. “To think of them growing up and assisting their father . . .”

“They will rule with honor and make this world even more of an oasis than I will. And their line will be extended—” His eyes grew wide. “Did you see that? One of them moved.”

Drucilla leaned close as a portion of the egg jutted but did not crack. “Amazing, isn't it? Step this way and you can see.”

Only when he bent and saw the egg by the light of the fire could he detect something small and angular moving around inside the shell.

“That's a wing, I believe,” Drucilla said.

“Yes,” the Dragon said, more animated. “Astounding! How much longer?”

“Not long,” Drucilla said. “And the closer we get, the more I believe that you will be the greatest leader in history.”

“Yes, I will,” the Dragon said. “My offspring will carry on my vision. I will teach them, and they will become like me.”

BOOK: The Author's Blood
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