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Authors: Michael Pryor

The Missing Kin

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The
Chronicles of
Krangor
BOOK TWO
THE MISSING KIN

MICHAEL PRYOR

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian
Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

 

Chronicles of Krangor 2: The Missing Kin

ePub ISBN 9781864714876
Kindle ISBN 9781864716740

Original Print Edition

Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney, NSW 2060
www.randomhouse.com.au

Sydney New York Toronto
London Auckland Johannesburg

First published by Random House Australia in 2008

Copyright © Michael Pryor 2008

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry

Pryor, Michael.
The missing kin.

For primary school aged children.

ISBN: 9781741661750

1. Quests (Expeditions) – Juvenile fiction. I. Title.
(Series: Pryor, Michael. Chronicles of Krangor; bk. 2).

A823.3

Cover illustration by Sam Hadley
Cover and text design by Astred Hicks, Wideopen Media
Map by Damien Demaj, DEMAP
Typeset by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed and bound by Griffin Press, South Australia

For Robert, Bonnie
and Alexander Pryor

One

The echoing corridors of the Lost Castle held
many surprises. Adalon knew that most were
dangerous, some deadly – but the urge to explore
overwhelmed such considerations.

In the month since Adalon and his friends had
returned to the Lost Castle after saving the villagers of
Sleeto, he'd stalked the mysterious halls and chambers,
hunting for some clue as to the fate of the long-gone
A'ak. Whenever he could find the time, he scanned the
passageways and frowned at empty room after empty
room, trying to make sense of the castle's enigmatic
former inhabitants. Where had the A'ak gone? Why
had they disappeared? What
sort
of saur were they?

Seek to understand
, his father had always advised,
lest the unknown become your enemy
. Adalon knew
they could not afford another enemy, not with the
power of Queen Tayesha looming against them, so
he spent precious sleep time gnawing at the mystery
of the A'ak.

Despite the safety the Lost Castle had provided,
Adalon felt uneasy about the A'ak, unsettled
deep inside himself. At times, he found the place
shuddersome, as if the stones had seen unspeakable
deeds and were now whispering of them in patient,
weary voices.

On this day, he'd almost overlooked the opening
to the narrow spiral staircase, concealed as it was by
ornamental carving, which was common in this part
of the castle. It was only when he happened to swing
his lantern that the shadows disappeared enough for
him to see the stairs leading downwards.

He descended, opened a solid wooden door at
the bottom of the stairs, and entered a small, square
room. The walls were rough stone, most unlike the
smoothly dressed masonry he'd become accustomed
to in the rest of the castle. The blocks were irregular,
with uneven faces, and looked hastily put together.
Three empty niches at shoulder height were set into
each wall.

A stone door stood before him. A pile of rocks
was heaped next to it, nearly reaching the ceiling. It
was as if lazy workers had thrown them aside before
slouching off.

A soft
click
came from behind him. Adalon
whirled in time to see that the door – which he was
sure
he'd left open – was now shut. He tried to open
it, but it wouldn't move. He bared his teeth, alert,
eyes darting. He turned and sidled along until he had
his back to a wall. He placed the lantern in one of the
niches and held his clawed hands on guard, ready.
Unarmed though he was, his thumb-claws were
sharp and deadly. He cursed himself for exploring
alone.

His friend Simangee had tired of exploration. She
had decided to spend more time high in one of the
towers, in the chamber of power, investigating the
many magic potions in the room. Targesh was busy
helping the villagers settle into their new home.

Adalon was trapped. He hissed. His heart began
to race, setting his Clawed One blood afire. He
swallowed and, with difficulty, he composed himself.
When his heartbeat slowed, he tried to open the door
again. His tail twitched with frustration when he
found it as solid as the stone walls that surrounded it.

He eyed the door opposite. It was a great slab
of stone banded with metal. He took a careful step
toward it, hoping it wouldn't be locked.

Next to the door, the pile of stones moved. Adalon
wrinkled his brow, wondering if he hadn't disturbed
it. Then a pebble tumbled, bouncing off the larger
rocks until it reached the floor, where it skittered
along before coming to rest in front of him.

This time, he was
certain
he hadn't disturbed it.

The pile shivered. Near the base of the pile, larger
stones ground together and shifted. Adalon's mouth
was dry. It was as if something was trying to get out
from under the heap. He snapped his claws together
and raised himself on his toes.

His chest tightened, and then he remembered a
lesson from the Way of the Claw:
Do not run the
race before it begins
. He sought for stillness inside
and tried to steady himself.

Adalon jumped backward as the entire top half
of the rock pile lurched, then fell forward. But he
was puzzled when nothing appeared from under the
rocks. Cautiously, he took a step toward them.

With a grating sound that set Adalon's teeth on
edge, the stones edged together, dragged together by
an unseen force. The movement seemed random at
first, with stones jostling and scraping against each
other until, finally, they heaved themselves up in a
single mass.

Numbly, Adalon saw that the rocks had assembled
themselves into the crude figure of a giant saur. It
had two arms, two legs, a thick tail and a featureless,
rough head, which scraped the ceiling.

Adalon's tail twitched as he tried to keep fear at
arm's length.
Magic
, he thought.
How I loathe magic
.

The stone creature stood still for a moment,
then its head swayed, as if it were tasting the air.
With a jerky step, it came toward him, the floor
shaking beneath its slab-like foot. Adalon moved
left, keeping his back to the wall. The creature took
another ponderous step. It paused and the stones
that made up its body ground together as it settled.
Then it swung a massive arm.

Without hesitating, Adalon threw himself forward,
underneath the deadly blow. He rolled and came
to his feet in time to twist away from a backswing
that would have torn off his head. He feinted left,
then darted right. A rocky fist crashed into the wall,
and splinters of stone lanced through the air. One
sliced Adalon's cheek. Blood streamed down and he
realised he'd barely missed being blinded.

He lunged for the monster, then reeled back as it
slapped at him with its tail. Desperately, he sought
for its vulnerable spots. The stones scraped against
each other, nothing presenting itself – no eyes, no soft
belly, nothing. He danced left and right, not standing
still, furiously searching for a plan. He felt the wall
behind him, and he pushed off, spinning to his left.
Perhaps if he could lure it to one side, he could reach
the door it had been guarding.

Adalon sprang toward the monster, then he
slipped to his right. It tried to grapple, clutching
at him with both arms, but Adalon squirmed away
with Clawed One speed. He left some skin behind,
but the way was now clear to the door.

He raced for it, grinning and pleased with himself,
but at that instant the monster swung its tail again.
Adalon tried to stop and duck at the same time, but
his feet skidded out from under him. The massive
tail clipped his forehead. His head rang like a bell
and it felt as if his bones turned to liquid. He slid to
the floor and echoes ran around inside his head.

He lay there, dazed. He knew he should be
climbing to his feet, but his thoughts were wrapped
in fog.

Adalon looked up to see the monster dragging
itself around to face him. Dizzy, his head swimming,
Adalon could see his death shambling toward him.

For a moment, he despaired. His vow would remain
unfulfilled. His father's death would be unavenged,
Queen Tayesha would bring war and ruin to the seven
kingdoms of Krangor and General Wargrach would
be triumphant.

He shook his head. It hurt, but it cleared a
little. He was determined not to die lying down. He
struggled to his knees, then used his tail to help him
to his feet to meet his foe.

At that moment the door to the stairwell splintered
and flew apart. A torrent of water burst into the
room with a roar that shook the walls.

Adalon was driven backwards by the flood,
spluttering and gasping. Amazed, he saw Simangee
leap into the room. She held a glowing potion bottle
in one upraised hand and a lantern in the other.
'Adalon!' she cried. 'Get back!'

Simangee, waist deep in water, threw the potion
at the monster. The vial shattered in a ball of light.
Adalon shielded his eyes and when he looked again,
the creature was melting. Slowly at first, then more
rapidly, like an ice statue thrust into the midday sun.
In a few scant seconds it had lost its shape, becoming
a grey mound, which then slumped and was absorbed
by the water.

Adalon stood, blinking and rubbing his head.
Simangee waded to his side. 'Adalon,' she said,
'when are you going to learn not to go anywhere
dangerous without me?'

Two

Adalon scooped up some water to wash the blood
from his cheek.

'Are you all right?'

Adalon realised that Simangee had just repeated
herself. 'My tunic is sodden,' he said. 'I have a cut
on my cheek and a few grazes. I should count myself
lucky, I suppose.'

Simangee snorted. 'Or you could simply say
"Thank you".'

Adalon smiled. Simangee was one of his oldest
friends, a Crested One he'd grown up with. Her lighthearted
but thoughtful manner made her a perfect
balance for the serious, stolid Targesh, Adalon's
Horned One friend. 'I am grateful, you know. If you
hadn't come along . . .'

Simangee sighed. 'Is nowhere safe? I thought this
place was a haven for us.'

Adalon nodded. 'It is, but we mustn't forget that
it once belonged to the A'ak.'

'That thing, that stone monster. Do you think it
was one of their leftovers?'

'You'd know more about magic than I would,
Sim. But "leftover"? I don't know.' Adalon wiped his
hands. 'Speaking of magic, that was an impressive
potion you used. From the chamber of power?'

Simangee sighed. 'There are hundreds of bottles in
that room, Adalon. I've been testing and cataloguing
them for weeks, but it's going to take forever.'

'I know, but we're going to need that magic,' he
replied. 'How did you know I was in trouble?'

'I'd been working in the chamber for some time
when I glanced at the mirrors.'

Adalon's tail twitched uneasily. The chamber of
power contained rack upon rack of potion bottles in
a variety of materials, shapes and colours. It was the
mirrors, however, that drew the eye. Twelve plain
silver frames held looking glasses that did not reflect
the room but instead had scenes flitting across them
dizzily, places familiar and exotic – and some that
Simangee swore were not in Krangor at all.

'One of the mirrors showed you fighting a monster
made of stone,' Simangee went on. 'I wouldn't have
known where to find you but the mirror changed its
view. It was as if I were watching through the eyes of
a bird swooping through the corridors of this place,
showing me the way.' She spread her hands wide.
'I grabbed some potions and here I am.'

'And I'm glad you came.'

Simangee huffed a musical burble. 'Well, we'd
better find out what the monster was guarding.'

Before Adalon could stop her, Simangee splashed
to the inner door, holding her lantern high. He
shrugged and followed her with a rueful smile.
Sometimes he thought that Simangee's curiosity
would lead them to disaster.

She pushed, and despite its massive appearance,
the stone and metal portal swung without a sound.

Adalon followed close behind, alert. Once over
the threshold, he stopped, open-mouthed at what
they'd found.

At first, he thought it was a cave, but as he gazed
around he saw tool marks on the crude pillars and
walls. This was the work of saur.

Adalon ran his hand along the rough stone and
peered through the shadows at the ceiling, which
soared high above their heads. Crystals caught
the light and glittered back at him in a multitude
of colours, small stars in a rocky heaven. It wasn't
a large space, but Adalon was as moved as he had
been in the vast Throne Hall in Queen Tayesha's
palace in Challish. He wrinkled his snout. The air
smelled stale, old in a way that reminded him of
the deepest chamber in his ancestral home of High
Battilon. That chamber rested on bedrock, the bones
of the land. This place was ancient, clawed from the
earth in times undreamed of, hewn from the bones
of Krangor itself. Adalon was humbled by the age
and rough splendour of the place.

A special bond existed between the saur and
the land. The many saur races respected the land,
tilling its soils, mining its hills, always conscious of
the debt they owed it. The rulers of the saur were
granted extraordinary powers by the land in return
for becoming its stewards. Ordinary saur respected
the land and used its gifts as wisely as they could.

After the murder of his father, Adalon had sought
the depths of High Battilon, his castle home. There, he
had made a vow. Placing his hands on the bare rock,
he had sworn vengeance against Queen Tayesha,
promising to stop her mad plan for immortality by
becoming ruler of all the seven kingdoms of Krangor.

Standing in this chamber in the Lost Castle, Adalon
was reminded of his vow. His promise had been
witnessed by the land and in its patient way it was
reminding him of it. He once again felt the presence
of Krangor, vast and enduring. He knew the power in
this old, old place – a power that was aware of him,
too. He knew that this was power above and beyond
magic – older and more primitive, serene and remote.

Simangee turned. 'Targesh!'

The massive Horned One stood in the open
doorway. He grunted and looked around, his eyes
widening. 'What is this place?'

'It feels like the Foundation Room at High
Battilon,' Adalon said.

'It's the heart of the Lost Castle,' Simangee said
in a low voice. She reached out to the rough stone of
the wall. Her face was solemn, respectful. 'We can
touch the bones of the land here.'

Adalon nodded, but he wondered about the bond
between the A'ak and the land. If the old stories were
true, it was not a happy one. 'They didn't want us
here,' he said softly.

'What?' Simangee said.

'The A'ak. That stone creature of theirs. It didn't
want anyone entering this place.'

'Stone creature?' Targesh asked.

Adalon told his Horned One friend about the
magical guardian. As he did, the narrowness of his
escape came to him again, and he felt a chill.

Targesh frowned. 'Danger within, danger without.'

'Danger without?' Simangee said. 'Do you have
news, Targesh?'

'The Queen's Army. It's moving again.'

BOOK: The Missing Kin
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