Praise for Returner’s Wealth:
“Rollicking story of love and dragons.” —Financial Times
“Stewart and Riddell have struck story-telling gold.” —The Scotsman
“Absorbing, stirring and intelligently written.” —Fantasy Book Review
Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.
For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.
The bone trail litters the barren lands of the wyrmeweald with the remains of dragon-like wyrmes, fortune-hunting kith bandits, and wyrme-protecting kin assassins alike—all viciously slaughtered in the gruesome quest for gold and/b>
From the creators of the Edge Chronicles comes the thrilling conclusion to the epic saga of Wyrmeweald!
The bone trail litters the barren lands of the wyrmeweald with the remains of dragon-like wyrmes, fortune-hunting kith bandits, and wyrme-protecting kin assassins alike—all viciously slaughtered in the gruesome quest for gold and power.
Micah and his friends have battled tirelessly against the kith bandits to protect the winged wyrmes. But the kith are getting bolder, trapping and killing wyrmes to take only their little flameoil sacs, then leaving the bodies to rot. Finally, deep in the heart of the weald, the whitewyrme has sent out a call to arms. The wyrmes are preparing for battle, ready to defend their home and themselves.
This will be war on every front: Wyrme against kith. Kith against kin. Even wyrme against wyrme. And former fortune-hunter Micah, now wyrme protector, must prepare for the fight of his life . . .
Eli Halfwinter surveyed the mountains that rose up out of the mist ahead. Fullwinter's grip had relaxed. The snow and ice had mostly gone. The green shoots of half summer were sprouting.
Eli's eyes narrowed.
The summit was a good day's climb by his reckoning, and the way looked perilous steep. The high sun cast long shadows down the ochre-brown rockface that were like stains. Eli glanced north along the range, then south. The mountains seemed to stretch off into the distance for ever, and he was loath to set out on such a detour.
Looking up, the cragclimber saw dozens of wyrmes flitting round the cragtops and upper ledges. Striped orange manderwyrmes. Spikebacks. Metallic bluewings. He heard their squeaks and chitterings echo off the wall of rock as they pitched and dived in search of insects.
He looked down again, scouring the lower reaches of the mountains. His gaze fell upon a jagged black crevice away to the south. It was a cleft through the rock, large enough for wyrmes to pass through. The scree at the entrance looked trampled, and it was spattered with wyrmedung.
This was what he'd been looking for. A wyrme trail. One of the migration routes that linked winter hideout to halfsummer pastures.
As Eli approached, he found that the crack in the rock was narrower than he'd thought – just wide enough for the great lumbering greywyrmes to pass through in single file. He stepped into it.
The sun was snuffed out like a candle flame and the air felt chill. High above his head was a thin slit of blue sky. The rock was sheer and dark at his sides, and at the most constricted points of the trail had been chafed and grazed by the flanks of the migrating herds. The shadowed track doglegged sharply to the left, then right again, then opened up.
Eli found himself on a small stretch of flat sand. It was enclosed by vertical rockfaces that rose up around him, curved and ridged like giant hands. Behind him was the narrow opening he'd entered. In front of him, blocking the way ahead, was a great pitted boulder.
Except it wasn't a boulder. It was a greywyrme. Massive. Recumbent. And dead.
The corpse was lying on its side, the back bowed and turned away, the long neck and thick tail curved round towards him, and between them the four limbs, outstretched, clawstiff. The head of the creature was draped over a slab of rock, its great maw gaping open to reveal rows of yellowpearl teeth. Deep empty black eyesockets stared back blindly at him.
It was a bull male, seventy summers old by the looks of it, perhaps even older than that. Eli rested a hand on the hard cracked skin of the greywyrme's flanks. It hung loose over the framework of jutting bones beneath.
The creature must have died just before the start of fullwinter, and its body been covered with thick snow that had protected it from carrionwyrmes and other scavengers, and frozen it solid. With the thaw, the wind whistling through the ravine had dried the body out, mummifying the remains and rendering its skin and flesh too brittle and desiccated to be of use.
But the teeth and claws, now they were a different matter ...
Eli straightened up. He pulled his rucksack from his back and set it on the ground. He loosened the ties. He pulled out a small hammer, a pair of pliers, then unsheathed the knife at his belt.
The claws of the greywyrme's hindfeet were brown and nubbed, but beneath the pitted surface Eli knew they would be fine-grained and make for excellent carving. They would bring high rewards at a scrimshaw den. He set to work.
The knack was to slide the point of the knife in at the back of the toe, where the curve of the claw left a small gap between the knuckle and the scaly skin, and twist. Eli jerked the handle round and the blade sliced through the tendons like they were yarns of wool. Then, keeping the knife in place, he gripped the claw with the pliers and wrenched it back hard, twisting as he did so.
There was a dull cracking sound and the claw came away from the foot. He turned it over in his hand appraisingly, then set it down on the sand.
Eli removed all twelve of the claws from the hindfeet. Then he moved on to those at the front.
These were longer, sharper. Paler. They would make a fine set of pickspikes. Eli took a swig of water from the watergourd at his side, mopped his brow, then set to work again.
He started humming. It was a plodding tuneless rendition of something he'd once heard. He wasn't even aware of doing it.
When the last of the front claws had been extracted, Eli pushed back his hat and turned his attention to the teeth. He peered into the dark yawning hole of the creature's maw, then reached inside. He ran his fingertips over the spike of an eyetooth, the chisel-edge of an incisor.
Using his knife, Eli drove the blade down between the teeth, one after the other, and sawed into the gums. He worked swiftly and efficiently. When the final cut had been made, Eli straightened up. The teeth were loose now. Setting the knife aside, he seized a front tooth with the pliers, then tap-tap-tapped at the gum with the hammer. Slowly. Gently. Taking care not to crack the enamel. Until, with something almost like a sigh, the gum finally gave up its grip on the roots and the tooth came free.
Eli turned it over in his hand, then laid it down next to the claws. It was a fine specimen, and he would have liked to point out its qualities to the boy – the fact that its size alone would furnish a dozen knife handles, and that its grain, even finer than the greywyrme's claws, would make for flawless carving.
But Micah was not there. He was off on the high bluffs to the west with the girl, Cara.
They needed time on their own, the youngsters. Eli accepted that. Especially Micah, after everything he'd been through that fullwinter past – not to mention the couple of seasons before that with the kingirl, Thrace. It had been a tough year, and that was a fact. But they had survived. Him and the boy. And now Micah had Cara to look out for ...
Eli smiled. Young love. There was no accounting for it.
Eli Halfwinter on the other hand was a loner. He'd learned the hard way that most kith could not be trusted. They would cheat and rob you as soon as look at you. They would kill you over a small nothing. No, so far as Eli was concerned, he was better off steering clear of other folks.
He glanced back down at the tooth. Though he sure did miss Micah to talk to.
Returning to the gaping jaw of the greywyrme, Eli removed the rest of the teeth in rapid succession. He stood back, wiping the sweat from his forehead, and surveyed the haul. Then, swallowing drily, he unhitched the gourd from his belt and took a long slug of water.
It was hard work. Despite the chill, he was sweating.
He took another swig from the gourd and was fixing it back to his belt when he saw it.
The broken shaft of a harpoon. It was sticking out from the base of the greywyrme's neck.
Eli had assumed that, given its age, the wyrme had died of natural causes. Certainly he hadn't been looking for evidence of injury. Yet there it was. A harpoon. Akith harpoon; the backslant barbs at its base bore testimony to that.
The harpoon was of a type fired from a kind of upright crossbow, favoured by those kith who went hunting for big game. The tip of the blade had penetrated the soft underskin of the greywyrme between the adamantine creases, and punctured its lungs. The ancient creature must have died instantly and, despite himself, Eli was impressed with the cleanness of the kill.
But why bring down so magnificent a creature, then fail to butcher it for meat and strip it of the valuable bone and ivory to barter with in a scrimshaw den? he wondered. It surely made no sense.
Eli shrugged, and was about to stow the claws and teeth in his pack when he noticed the small wound at the base of the creature's throat.
The flameoil sac had been removed.
Eli frowned. His mouth grew taut with rising anger. The kith hunters hadn't been interested in food or ivory, just the tiny gland in the greywyrme's throat.
Small, easy to carry and highly prized. Apothecarists down on the plains would pay handsomely for greywyrme flameoil and its supposedly miracle properties. Anyone returning from the high country with a full pack of the stuff would have their fortune made – never mind that they were responsible for the slaughter of countless wyrmes.
Eli hawked and spat. The thought of it turned his stomach.
He wrapped the teeth up in an old blanket along with the claws, and stuffed the whole lot inside his rucksack before hoisting it onto his back. The pack was heavy, but at least he had honoured the magnificent greywyrme by using what it had to offer.
When it came to moving on, Eli found that the curved back of the greywyrme was pressed against the crevice, stopping up the gap in the rock like a cork. He had no option but to climb over it if he was to continue his journey. Reaching up, Eli gripped the folds of the wyrme's vestigial wings, then clambered onto the creature's back. He was about to climb down the other side – but then stopped.
His jaw dropped. The trail ahead was blocked.
Before him, like a rockfall of huge grey boulders, were hundreds and hundreds of greywyrmes. They were crammed into the narrow ravine, their throats cut and flameoil sacs removed.
Eli swallowed numbly. These kith hunters had been clever, he could see that now. They must have tracked the herd across the pastures on their long migration to their fullwinter hide in these mountains, and as the old bull wyrme had led them through the ravine the hunters had struck. They had shown no mercy. They had slaughtered the entire herd. Male and female, young and old alike, sparing not a single one.
And for what? For an ointment that supposedly reduced the signs of ageing ...
Eli's face had turned a dark raw red. His lips trembled and his pale-blue eyes glistened. He was going to have to be late meeting up with Micah and Cara at the stickle falls. He would turn back, find another way through the mountains. He could not face clambering over all these bodies; all that needless death.
'Oh, Micah,' he whispered, 'I'm glad you're not here to see this.'CHAPTER 2
Micah pulled his canteen from his belt and took a swig of water. It was warm, but better than nothing. He wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve. High above him something screeched, and Micah looked up, his hand shielding his eyes from the glare of the high sun, to see a dozen or so carrionwyrmes circling far above his head on those tattered black wings of theirs.
He smiled grimly. If they'd been fixing on having him for their next meal they were going to be sore disappointed. But then, unless he missed his guess, it wasn't him they had their eyes on ...
Micah pulled off his hat and scratched his scalp, easing the heatprickle. Then, with a single motion, he jammed the hat back on his head and jumped down lightly from the bluntedge rock he'd been standing on. He kept on up the steep screescritch slope, head lowered. The shadows of the carrionwyrmes orbited his hunched body like dark stars, while his own shadow pooled around his feet, black as pitch.
It was good to be back on the trail after the long months of fullwinter spent cooped up underground. The warm halfsummer air tasted good. His limbs felt strong. He climbed the screescritch effortlessly, silently, his fresh-greased boots picking out the best way through the jagged stones like they had a mind of their own. As the ground levelled out, Micah passed clusters of tall mottled rapierspikes that were just coming into flower. And there was new-grown chafegrass and rockvetch and feathermilt underfoot, and a brace of tall mountain oaks over to one side, their stubby branches hazed with green from half-opened buds.
There came a sound.
Micah's hand shot to the handle of his hackdagger.
The sound came again. Scritching and scratching. Micah peered into the shadows beneath the mountain oaks, and relaxed. A small squat squabwyrme was rubbing its rump lazily up and down the rough bark, sloughing off ribbons of old skin.
Micah turned away and continued over the flat rock and up the next slope. A couple of basking scratwyrmes, the size of his hand, scurried over the jumble of rocks before disappearing into crevices between them. As he approached the top of the slope, Micah slowed down, stooped forward and headed for a tall angular rock that lay precariously close to the edge. He crouched down behind it.
Slowly, breath held, he peered round the side of the rock.
The land fell away on the other side into a flat-bottomed dip. And there, at one end of the depression, was a youth.
He was hunkered down on his heels, his back turned but his face in half-profile. He was thin, fair-haired, with high cheekbones. Downy hair above his top lip suggested he was close to his first shave. He was wearing the clothes of a steerhand or a ploughboy from the plains; a collarless shirt, a homespun jacket, buckskin boots and breeches, all of them frayed and scuffed. His pack lay a little way off, propped up against a flat rock, the burnished copper cookpot strapped to it glinting in the sunlight.
It was this dazzle Micah had spotted from the trail. It had also drawn the keen eyes of the carrionwyrmes that continued to circle overhead.
There was a knife raised in the youth's hand. And as he shifted awkwardly round, Micah saw that he had trapped a wyrme in the longnet that lay at his feet. The long-limbed brown wyrme was thrashing about furiously, screeching, squealing. One of its hindlegs and both forepaws stuck out through the oversized holes of the net, claws slashing at its captor's shaking hand.
It was a splaywyrme by the look of it, Micah thought. Dullwitted creatures. Easy to catch but difficult to kill, on account of the heavy carapace that covered their wide bodies from neck to tail. Down on the ground, his chin resting on his clasped hands, he watched the youth grip the knife with both hands and stab down stiffly through the net.
'Not that way,' Micah murmured.
The knife bounced harmlessly off the splaywyrme's shell. Spitting and snarling, the wyrme lunged back at its attacker, its vicious snout thrusting at the rope mesh so hard that its head burst out through the net. Its neck swivelled round and its fangs slammed together. The youth pulled sharply back and jumped to his feet. He kicked at the squirming net, but half-heartedly.
The wyrme bucked and writhed, and screeched all the louder. The youth looked close to tears.
He was obviously a greenhorn, out on the trail. On his own. He reminded Micah of himself, all that time ago, when he had first entered the weald. Lonely. Frightened.
Micah climbed to his feet.
Below him, the youth continued his strange ungainly dance, hopping about, dodging the snapping jaws of the trapped wyrme as he attempted to land a fatal blow. Micah pulled the hackdagger from his belt.
'Need some help?' he called down.
The youth spun round, fear in his eyes as his gaze fell upon the glinting blade in Micah's hand. Micah smiled and raised his hands defensively.
'S'all right, friend, I don't mean no harm,' he said. 'But I can show you how to deal with that there splaywyrme.' He started down the slope towards the youth. 'Trick is to flip 'em over and aim for the base of the neck ...'
The blow to his arm seemed to come out of nowhere. It struck him with a dull crack just below the elbow, making him cry out with pain and surprise and sending his hackdagger scuttering over the dusty gravel. A hefty arm wrapped itself round his neck, squeezing tight and pulling him backwards, and he felt the sharp tip of a knife at his shoulder blades.
'Keep still,' hissed a voice in his ear. 'Y'understand?'
Micah struggled, cursing his stupidity. The knife jabbed harder. Micah fell still. He smelled the sour tang of hunger on his attacker's warm breath.
'One more move and it'll be your last.'
Excerpted from Bone Trail by Paul Stewart, Chris Riddell. Copyright © 2013 Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Paul Stewart is a highly acclaimed author of books for young readers. Chris Riddell is a renowned political cartoonist and illustrator of children’s books. Together, Stewart and Riddell have formed an award-winning partnership and created the bestselling Edge Chronicles series, which has sold more than two million copies and is now available in more than thirty languages.
See all customer reviews
Great series im surprised so few people kow about it. Id very highly recommend getting at least th first book. I sure enjoye this series!!