Date Published: December 2, 2021
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
THE LAST DRAGONS IN THE KINGDOM WERE KILLED A HALF CENTURY AGO.
At least that’s what twelve-year-old Eliana has grown up hearing. Imagine her surprise when one morning in the forest she finds herself eye to eye with a young dragon. When she learns the dragon’s father has been missing since the last full moon, she vows to help.
Together, they seek the King for guidance, but upon reaching the castle they realize the short, frazzled King has problems of his own. The kingdom’s treasure is missing and the tribute to the Overking is due in a few short weeks. If the King doesn’t pay, he will lose his kingdom to the Overking’s feckless nephew.
The dragon and the girl must discover courage—sprinkled with magic—to find what is lost before the kingdom falls into the wrong hands and people and dragons perish forever.
In the forest, Eliana stood as still as her pounding heart would allow. She was so close to the dragon—for indeed it was a dragon—that she could see the slow blink of its eyes as the lids moved up and then down again. Somehow she was able to take in the fact that the creature was much smaller than the old stories portrayed. Its scaly tail and feathered wings were wrapped around its body so it looked to be only about as big as a draft horse.
In the old stories, the last dragons were said to have been killed before her parents had been born. But Eliana could feel its warm breath moving rapidly in and out of the tear-shaped nostrils on either side of its blocky snout. They were breathing in unison, she and this impossible dragon.
“You’re afraid, too,” she whispered, and the creature drew back, crouching lower on its powerful haunches; its shimmery turquoise and green scales and feathered wings quivered as it began to move away from her, deeper into the forest.
“Please don’t go,” Eliana said, using the soft, cooing voice she used to soothe Opal when the hen was frightened. “I won’t hurt you.” The dragon stopped, its pointed ears twitching.
“My name is Eliana. What’s your name?” The sound the dragon made then reminded her of the twins when they tried to talk with their mouths full of porridge. What was I thinking? she wondered. Of course it can’t understand me. But something—the way the dragon looked at her so intently—made her try again.
“El-i-ana…Eliana. My name…” she placed her hand on her chest, “…is Eliana.”
“Umm-mmm-mm-um,” the dragon repeated, sort of.
“You can understand me!” Eliana cried, but clamped her hand over her mouth at the sight of the dragon crouching even lower as it seemed to be trying to cover its ears with its front legs.
“You can understand me,” she repeated, softer this time. It nodded its huge head and what looked like a smile curled the corners of its mouth. Eliana tried not to focus on the square, white teeth that were now clearly visible.
“What’s your name?” she asked, careful to move her hand slowly as she pointed at the dragon.
“Umm-mmm,” it replied, laying a taloned claw on its own chest. Except for the missing syllables, it sounded almost the same as when it had tried to say her name.
She tried again. “What’s your name?”
Again, the mumbled reply.
“Soooo, you can understand me…” The dragon nodded vigorously. “But I can’t understand you.” The dragon looked almost as disappointed as she felt.
Feeling the effects of first the shock and then the excitement of meeting a real live dragon, Eliana sank to sit on the soft, green moss of the forest floor. A dragon? She shook her head. Despite what she’d always heard, this beautiful creature was very much alive.
The dragon stretched its neck so its eyes were once again staring into her own. Slender shafts of morning light found their way between the dark green tree branches and fell on the dragon’s scales and on its feathered wings pressed against his sides. The colors were like nothing she had ever seen before, seeming to gather sunlight to create shades unknown in nature. Without a thought about what she was doing, she reached out her hand and laid it on the creature’s neck.
“Winston. My name is Winston,” said the dragon.
Eliana simultaneously gasped and pulled her hand away. Wisps of colors—the same as those of his glittering scales—streamed between her hand and the dragon. Within seconds, the wisps faded and disappeared.
“Your name is Winston?” she breathed. The sizable head nodded and the smile returned.
“How…?” Eliana looked at the palm of her hand. Winston moved slightly so that his neck was only inches away. She gently placed her hand on his scales again.
“It’s when you touch my neck that you can understand me, Eliana.”
Eliana realized Winston was right: when he’d tried to talk before she touched him, she couldn’t understand him at all. It reminded her of the time she’d seen a traveler in the village who spoke what her mother had said was a language from another land. The sound of his speech had been fascinating, like music with high notes and low notes woven together. She could hear the man, but had no idea what he was saying. With her hand on the dragon, it was as if she had learned another language. Winston’s language. And her mind whirled with all the questions she wanted to ask him.
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