The first installment in a thrilling series about four dragons and their riders on an epic quest to save the world Nolita is terrified of dragons! Learning to fly her day dragon would be dangerous enough without irrational fears to contend with and a vicious dragon-hunter on her tail. With Elian, another novice rider, Nolita seeks the first of four Orbs, whose combined power can restore the Oracle. Only Nolita, as a day dragon rider, can claim it. To do so, she must face her worst fears, and face them alone.
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Mark Robson is the author of Imperial Assassin, Imperial Spy, and Imperial Traitor.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Devil's Finger
Elian paused to look over his shoulder as he reached the edge of the trees. They were still after him. Sweat trickled in steady rivulets down his forehead, neck and back. He was breathing hard, but his mind was clear: no choice remained - he would have to risk the Devil's Finger. What if they dared to follow? Granted it was unlikely. Like everyone else, Borkas and Farrel were wary of the taboo. But what if they put their fears aside as he had? The thought chilled him to the core. If they did, he would be in big trouble.
Why Borkas and Farrel had chosen to pick on him today was not clear, but he was not about to stop and ask them. None of the local boys were strong enough to stand up to the two thugs. When they had appeared, he had run.
It was strange. Curiosity and a desire for adventure had drawn Elian to the Finger more than a year ago. Daring to go there had felt neither brave nor foolish. Instead he had felt strangely compelled, as if it were a place he was supposed to go. Stories were told of the Devil's Finger in the village; stories designed to keep the youngsters from venturing there. It was a place of dire consequences, they said - a place of death.
On reaching it that first time, Elian had seen the Finger for what it was. Yes, it held danger for the unwary or the foolish, but no more so than many other places along the edge of the Great Escarpment. Sheer drops of up to a thousand spans into the lush green of the Haleen Rift Valley were not uncommon along the edge. The Finger, however, appeared to flout the laws of nature. It was a huge digit of rock projecting from the lip of the sheer cliff that pointed ever eastwards, towards the lands of the rising sun.
He hadn't been through the tangled wood for a while, but an itching sensation at the back of his skull had been plaguing him all week. Memories of his last visit haunted his dreams and thoughts. It felt almost as if the Finger were calling him back - as if he needed to visit it. Or was it that it needed him? With the burly figures of Borkas and Farrel closing fast, any worries about the curious instinct were forgotten. He had come too far to turn back. It was the Finger, or a beating.
He turned and entered the woods. The path was barely distinguishable from the rest of the wild, untamed land near the edge of the Great Escarpment. Tangled briars tore at his boots and the lower branches of the trees clawed at his tunic and hair with gnarled fingers. Driven forwards by need and fear, he ignored them. When he finally broke free from the clutches of the trees he was scratched, tired, and beginning to wonder if this had been such a good idea.
He took a few steps forwards onto the base of the Finger. The cloud seemed little more than a few spans above his head. He drew a deep breath and held it for a moment. The view from the rocky outcrop was one that the Creator had otherwise reserved for the birds. The sense of awe he had felt on his previous visits enveloped him once more with the soft touch of a rich man's cloak.
Elian had never been afraid of heights, but this was one place where he could begin to understand what it must be like to suffer vertigo. He walked forwards further to where the Finger narrowed to a mere couple of paces wide. He was not so foolish as to walk all the way to the tip, for there was no telling how stable such a narrow point of rock might be.
For many, to look down from where he was standing would simply be too much. Some would freeze, unable to move. Others would drop to their hands and knees and crawl back to the safety of the main escarpment. Others still would lie down, close their eyes and beg for someone to save them. It was a curious phenomenon, the fear of heights.
A sudden whoosh of air from behind made Elian drop to one knee for fear of being swept over the edge. As the unexpected gust died with a fading sigh, he slowly rose to his feet. To his horror, he realised he was no longer alone. He could feel a presence behind him. The thought of facing Borkas and Farrel here made fresh beads of sweat break out on his forehead.
'Hello. Were you looking for me?'
The voice did not belong to either of the boys. It was female, rich, melodious and strangely familiar, but he had no conscious memory of having heard it before. No woman in his village spoke with such regal tones, yet he had met none from outside that circle.
'It's good to see you're not afraid of heights. The Oracle is calling. Your time is here.'
Being careful to place his feet securely, Elian turned slowly to face the owner of the enigmatic voice. He raised his eyes and his mouth formed a large O as he struggled to take in what he saw.
A dragon was standing on the base of the Finger with its wings partially furled: a huge, glorious dragon with glowing golden scales and bright horns. A crest, strengthened with ridges, ran down the middle of her back to a long tail and her great talons gleamed as if polished. Elian looked into her mesmerising eyes and for a moment he was lost. They were great windows of amber, opening into an abyss of immeasurable depth.
A waft of dry, musky scent invaded his nostrils as his air-starved lungs forced him to resume breathing. It reminded him of summer fields with just a hint of something tantalisingly exotic that again was familiar, yet unidentifiable.
With a determined effort, he wrenched his gaze from the dragon's eyes, but his focus did not shift far. There was one area of the dragon that inevitably drew his attention - the rows of long, pointed teeth.
Panic surged within him. The dragon had no rider. It was dangerous. It had to be. He looked around wildly, as if expecting to find some miraculous escape route. There was none. He was trapped.
The dragon took a step forwards.
Elian instinctively took two steps backwards and lifted his hands, as if to push the dragon away. 'Don't come any closer!' he said, his voice sounding ragged even in his own ears.
'Come to me. I've waited a long time for this moment. Your destiny is upon you.'
It suddenly occurred to Elian that the dragon was communicating directly with his mind, but what it - she - was saying made no sense. Destiny? What destiny? Was this a trick used by dragons to gain easy meat? Was this what the village teacher had meant by the 'special powers' of dragons?
Without thinking, he took another step backwards. A fragment of rock crumbled and his right foot twisted. A startled shock wave of panic surged through him as he windmilled his arms in an effort to regain his balance. He failed. His centre of gravity had shifted too far to the right. The moment of realisation as he toppled felt lazy and detached. As he passed the point of no return his mind suddenly flashed through layers of panic to a new level of consciousness.
'Fool!' he heard the dragon exclaim in his mind. A yell formed in his throat, triggered more by the dragon's sudden surge towards him than any anticipation of the long fall. Her jaws opened wide as she lunged. She missed - barely - but during his first tumbling revolution, Elian realised she had not given up on her prey. The dragon had dived off the cliff and was also in freefall, arrowing down in pursuit.
Even though he was yelling uncontrollably, inside, Elian felt strangely calm. He was going to die - that was accepted. What was more difficult to decide was if his fall had lengthened his life, or shortened it. How long could he have kept the dragon talking before it killed him? He knew he had a slow count of approximately twenty-one (if his experiments with stones were representative) of life remaining. His yell petered out as his lungs emptied, but his thoughts raced on as he plummeted towards the valley below.
Air dragged at his clothing and roared in his ears. His fair hair, normally clean and neatly brushed at the insistence of his mother, felt as though it was being pulled from its roots. And his vision was blurred - not by tears, for no tears could form without being blasted away - but by his eyes drying and distorting in the pummelling airflow. What was more, he was still accelerating. He could feel it.
Turning face down, his cheeks billowed and flapped in a most insane manner. He could stop them by clenching his mouth shut and tightening his cheek muscles, but in a crazy sort of way it felt good to relax and experience a few new things. Would he have time to register pain before he died? No. When he hit the ground, it would end in an instant. Another revolution and it felt as though the air had lifted the eyelids from his eyes. The pressure in his ears was building painfully and occasional flashes of blurred vision revealed the dragon catching up fast. Would he be allowed to meet his end on the rocks, or would he be torn apart by the dragon first?
The female voice in his mind again. So he, Elian, son of Raim, was to be dragon food. But how many others from the village would have such a spectacular death? he rationalised.
A fearful, wrenching force squeezed and twisted his body as a double cage of talons snapped shut around him. The shock as the simultaneous slap of air met the dragon's unfurled wings felt like a crushing body punch. The impact spawned flashing stars of light that danced before his eyes as she deflected them out of the headlong dive.
Once in level flight, the pressure on Elian's chest, stomach and legs reduced until he felt as if he were simply laid across the talons like a sparsely slatted bed. With surprise he realised the grip of the dragon was most gentle.
He swallowed and his ears popped painfully.
Elian winced, but the pain receded quickly and his hearing was abruptly restored. The air-rush died down, and as his eyes rediscovered their focus, he found he was face down, gliding noiselessly southwards across the treetops in the Haleen Valley basin. It was the most exhilarating feeling he had ever experienced. For a moment he felt like hooting for joy, but then the thought of his imminent fate reasserted its hold.
In his mind he heard the dragon chuckle.
It's not fair, he de...
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Book Description Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 310 pages. 7.70x5.10x0.90 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # __1847380689
Book Description Simon & Schuster UK, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX1847380689
Book Description Simon & Schuster UK, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M1847380689
Book Description Simon & Schuster Children's UK, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111847380689
Book Description Simon & Schuster Children's UK. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 1847380689 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0776338