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Running. That's what I was doing, with a fire wind on my neck. I didn't know where I was going, but I knew I had to get away. If I looked behind me, I could lose ground. I felt my arms pumping along my sides, as though that would help me go faster. If only I could fly. With that thought, I jumped, leaping over a lump of grass buried along a fence. Faster. Faster. I had to get away.
The air moved through my lungs giving me strength. I wasn't good at running, but the jumping I could do thanks to all my gymnastics classes. I came to what looked like a dead end of the dirt trail I'd been following. I started to examine my surroundings for an exit. A large stone fence seemed to line the edges of my path. At the end was a tunnel. This had to be my escape.
That's when I heard the roar. I didn't want to look back, but sometimes you can't help it. Slowly I turned, feeling like a character in a horror movie as the camera sweeps behind. There it was. A large, scaled creature, teeth bared, with a sinuous neck like a dragon with sweeping Pterodactyl wings. It looked more like a dinosaur from a textbook than a real living thing. It gave another bellow and snorted fire. That can't be good.
* * *
My eyes opened. I'd woken up from another of those nightmares. I was glad. This time I thought he might catch me. It's good to wake up just in time, especially when being chased by a dragon. Luckily, it was still only a dream. But it had felt so real. I gave myself a shake to help wake up and focus.
In my line of business, what seems like fantasy can be real. I'm a Crystal Keeper, and between my Fairy Helpers, my talking cat that happens to be a sorcerer too, my unicorn guide, and friends in high places (like the Green Man), dragons could just be around the corner. If these dreams keep coming like this, I won't be surprised if a dragon shows up at the window.
But that's the least of my worries. I still don't know where Edina, my best friend and fellow Crystal Keeper, has been taken. Dark Sorcerer Balkazaar kidnapped her after we fooled him by wishing the Pillywiggin fairies free. I don't think he was too happy about that.
The last time I saw her, Eddie (my nickname for Edina) was grabbed by Balkazaar and taken through a fairy path vortex to who knows where. That's what I've been working on the last few days since I've been back from the fairy paths in Ireland. I've been trying to find her. I have no idea how, but I am going to try.
Since that day, she hasn't been in school. I've called her house, but get no answer. I figured, maybe, in a couple days there would be a big search or something. A newscast would come up with her picture saying she was missing and the girl hunt would be on. But nothing. Absolute nothing. I have no clue what is going on.
There was a thump, and I could feel the walking of my cat, Brewford, as he made his way along the bed.
Was it the dream again?
"Yes, Brew, this time he cornered me, and I didn't have an exit. Each time it seems to get worse."
It could be just a symbolic dream. I'm sure you are feeling a bit trapped in your options on where Edina might be. The creature that seeks you could represent your frustrations.
"Maybe, Brew, but somehow I think it's more than that."
Dreams can be messages from other realms. Or sometimes a portent of foreboding. The creature, how would you describe it?
"Scary, big, scaly, and kind of thinking of it, a lot like a dragon."
Dragons are interesting. They can be very helpful sometimes. Did you consider that maybe it's not the dragon going after you, but maybe something else? What do you think you're running from?
"I don't know. I can't see. But maybe I'm not running from the danger, but toward it. Wouldn't be the first time." I gave Brewford a wink.
He gave me a half stare. This seemed to make him look more like Garfield in my mind. With Brewford's striped tail, tabby fur, and Abyssinian eyes, I half expected Odie, Garfield's sidekick, to jump up on the bed next. Of course, Brewford is also a powerful cat sorcerer, not to mention several centuries old, which he never lets me forget. Yoda with fur comes to mind.
Are you ready to feed me? Your mother isn't up yet. I think the second job is making her extra tired.
That's another thing. Mom got a new job that started this week. It's only part time in the evenings, but it's going to make it hard for her to do all the Mom things. You know, helping with homework, cooking dinner, and feeding the cat. So the news went something like this:
"Honey, I'm going to have to rely on you to be more responsible now that I'm working at night too. We need the money, and I know you can do it. 'Kay?"
I simply nodded. I mean what else could I say? I couldn't really tell her the truth. I could see me trying something like this, "Hey Mom, I help the fairies and have saved the world twice now. I can totally handle a night or two a week on my own. I'm a big, sixth grader now, and a Crystal Keeper." But this was a secret I couldn't tell her. No one could know but another Keeper.
But then, being a Crystal Keeper is like that. I have found that saving the day is part of the job. Luckily, I have elves to help with my homework too. One of the perks of being a Crystal Keeper. The elves and other fairies of the realms rely on us to help guard their entrances and assist with magical defense. But that comes later in the story.
Right now, I am just trying to just figure out where Eddie is. It's tough not knowing what happened. I figured, with it being Monday, I could maybe talk to some of her friends I met a few days ago. Maybe they've seen her since last week.
"Okay, hold on, cat." I eased myself off the side of the bed and heard another thump. I felt the rubbing against my legs.
I thought-talk back, Think that sounded authentic? Gotta keep up appearance, right, Brew. "After you, Fat Cat," I say out loud. I motion through the doorway as he scuttles through.
Must you use that term with me? I really do think I am quite fit.
"Brewford, you weigh a ton." I keep walking down the hallway until I turn right into the front hall, and then a quick left into the kitchen. "I break my back just trying to pick you up to put you on the couch."
I thought I lost a few pounds trekking though the caves in Ireland.
"No, Brew. You're fat. Just admit it. It's time to get you on a kitty diet. Do they have diet cat food?"
I hear another voice answer my question. It's Mom. "Yes, I think they do. And you're right, dear. I think Brewford has put on a few pounds." Mom turned into the kitchen and went straight to the coffee pot, her morning ritual. "We'll have to look into some weight control dry food at the least."
Brewford's loud protest made Mom laugh. She looked down and gave Brew a stroke and then returned to pouring water into the coffee maker. "Strange. It's almost like he knows we're talking about him." She gave a big yawn as she pointed to the cupboard. "I put more of his food in the cupboard. I gave him the last can from the fridge last night. You probably need to open a new one." She yawned again. "If you need anything, I'll be in the shower. 'Kay?"
She dashed back through the kitchen doorway, and I was left to feed the hungry cat.
"Meow. Meow." I have to admit that the tuna is quite nice. Can I have some of that?
Click. "Oops. I already opened the chicken. Sorry, too late on that order."
Oh well, do remember for next time.
Brew's guzzling sounds told me the conversation was at an end for now. Time for my breakfast. Why does the cat always get fed first? Oh well, better figure out which cereal I want today. Mom had been switching from name brands to the generic cheap cereal sold at the co-op grocery club. It was like Cheerios or Fruit Loops on steroids. Way too much sugar for just one kid. Ah, about just right for me.
The kitchen was filled with happy cat guzzling and cereal chomping sounds. I liked this state of mind—when there is nothing to think about in the morning but eating. I could forget for a while that, so far, I'd failed to find my friend.
Maybe if I headed to the Crystal Store again today, I could find some more clues in the myths and legends section. The Green Man, whom I'd recently visited in the Fairy Realm of Eire, had told me that a lot of truth and wisdom was hidden among the myths and legends of the past. All I had to do was find a clue, something, to find where Eddie might be. It did give me a little hope. I knew I would find her, no matter what.
I finished the last of my cereal as the kitchen filled with the smell of freshly brewed coffee. I could hear the shower still going in the other room. Mom would be a while. I grabbed a clean outfit out of the hall closet and dashed back to my room. For her to make it to work on time, I needed to be ready to leave. Dropping me off at school was one thing that didn't change with her new job.
I was brushing my hair when Brew came in pushing the bedroom door open. I've been thinking more upon your dream, Wanda. It gives me pause. There is something there. A message, I should think. Only you can decipher it though. Maybe if you try to remember more, you can solve the mystery.
I kept up with my morning routine. I managed to have my favorite power colors of burgundy and black already picked out in a pair of pants and knit top. My shoes were my plain black, leather tennis shoes. I was thinking it would make me more Goth if I got a steampunk-style pair of shoes. But I still wasn't sure if I could convince Mom yet.
I did a couple more strokes to my boring, brown hair. I looked in the mirror. My glasses were perched on my face. My brown eyes stared back. I couldn't look plainer. You would think that a Crystal Keeper would look more fabulous. Like some hero from some adventure fantasy book. But we look just as plain and normal as everyone else.
"You think there is something to my dreams, Brewford?" I looked down to see him staring in the distance. Cats are notorious for this. But for some reason, I think Brewford is actually looking somewhere else.
He looked back at me, breaking his staring trance. Most certainly. He gave his tail a swish to emphasize. Crystal Keepers must pay attention to their dreams as much as to their studies with magic. Dreams are powerful focusing tools. Your subconscious mind might be picking up on other forces your conscious mind isn't yet aware of. Or it could be a play out of your frustration of not finding Eddie.
"You really think it is a clue where she could be?"
Possibly. Or a clue for the path you may need to follow. Dreams are a powerful tool for magic. He walked to the other side of the room and jumped on the bed. His eyes were more level with mine as he continued. What were you planning to do today to find her?
"I think I'll try asking some of her friends that I met the first day of school. We've been hanging out now and then, especially at lunch. They might have seen her. And maybe visit Mrs. Lawrence at the Crystal Store. Maybe she might have an idea of where Balkazaar would take Eddie, especially since she used to be a Crystal Keeper when she was a kid."
It's a starting point.
We were cut off by Mom's voice coming down the hallway. "Wanda, if you hurry, I can give you a ride to school. It's time, and I'm running a little late. You ready yet?"
"Okay, Mom, I'm almost ready. Be there in a sec," I answered as I was pulling my hair back, into my simple ponytail style. It got my hair out of my face. I wasn't trying to be too fashionable these days, just practical. I didn't have time to be trendy.
I grabbed my backpack and started to go down the hall. Shouting back, I waved to the Brew. "See you after school."
As always. He eased himself into the hallway to watch me go. Give me a full report when you return.
"Don't I always," I yelled back as I struggled to strap on the backpack.
"Don't you always what?" said Mom as she opened the front door.
Realizing my mistake, I covered quickly. "Don't I always, ah, do my homework? Should be all ready for another week of school." I flashed a quick smile as my mom shook her head. We headed to the car.
Drexel Middle School, home to the slavery of education. Well, at least it feels like slavery when you're eleven and have no choices. The school hadn't changed much since my parents' generation had gone here. The drab, stark building structures in box frames connected by corridors were never that inviting. But school isn't ever inviting. It's just another necessity of life that has to be endured. Sort of like vegetables or doing exercises. There was one smell that gave me hope.
Outside the front of the school were these amazing rosebushes. Their perfume wafted. The scent beckoned me forward. They must be twenty years old. The roses climbed the side wall on a trellis in front of the office. It was something that brightened my morning.
But I didn't have time to enjoy the roses this morning. Mom dropped me in front of the passenger drop-off lane. I got out with my backpack, escaping with a quick wave. I had to find one or two of Eddie's friends before the first bell. I was hoping they might know something.
The sea of students was moving in the direction of the main quad. I blended in with the rest, keeping my eyes peeled for anyone that I might have seen in the last few weeks. Most of Eddie's friends I'd only seen a few times at lunch. They were starting to feel like a regular posse. It's so awesome to finally be part of a group.
I went around the corner and bumped right into Pam. She was wearing her typical all black. She was still chowing down on a breakfast bar, licking her fingers, her nail polish what else ... black. She looked startled and said a quick, "Sorry." Then she tried to navigate around me. But I turned with a shout, "Hey, Pam, wait up."
"Excuse me." She turned to stare strangely.
"Pam, it's me, Wanda. I'm Eddie's new friend. We met a few weeks ago and were hanging out at lunch. I haven't seen you guys in a few days."
She still looked at me with this weird look. "I don't know you. If you know Eddie, maybe you can't be too bad. But we've haven't met or hung out. You sure you got the right person?"
I was a little stunned. "Well, yeah, we've been eating lunch together a few times a week. Like I think I saw you last Monday. But Eddie and I were busy." I didn't know how to explain saving the world, trying to figure how bees were dying, and fighting an evil dark sorcerer. Fairies rarely work their way into the conversation. "Eddie and I have been out of touch the last few days." I really didn't know how to explain that an evil sorcerer had kidnapped her either. The picture of her being swept away into the light portal will be etched in my mind forever. I shiver. "Studying. We've been doing a lot of research for social studies."
"Well, that's good for you. But I've got to get going." Pam turned to go, her black short hair swung away.
I grabbed onto her sleeve. "Have you seen Eddie in the last week?"
She shook her head. "No, and if I had, I wouldn't tell anyone I didn't know well." She looked at my hand. "So, could you let go. You're kinda weird."
She left quickly after I released my hold on her arm. This wasn't making sense. I knew that we'd been busy researching to solve the mystery of the bees, but we'd been doing lunch with her friends off and on the last few weeks. How come Pam didn't seem to know me now? Something weird is definitely going on.
The first bell rang interrupting my thoughts. I watched Pam, now at the far end of the hall, stop to talk to another girl. The girl turned toward me, and Pam said something to her. They both started to laugh together. The new girl, with her strawberry blonde hair, cut short in a bob looked at me. Her black jeans and burgundy tank top were all too familiar. I'd seen her wear the same outfit when we went researching once at the Crystal Store. It was Eddie.
* * *
They sped off laughing and looking back at me. Just then, the second bell rang. I must have stood staring for a while, because a teacher went past me and said, "Shouldn't you be getting to class?" That broke the spell. I hurried to the F-block building. Each building is labeled with a letter. Building F is at the back end of the school.
Luckily, my first class was Literature. I had it with Eddie. Was she going to be there? Or had I just imagined her going off with Pam.
I entered the room looking for her in the corner where we usually sat. There she was. Her familiar strawberry blonde bob leaning over talking to a girl who was the last person I'd have expected. She was talking to Jessica Newark. Jessica. The one girl who had been picking on me for at least a year. Really? Why would Eddie be talking to her? The last time we ran into her, Eddie told off Jessica pretty good for giving me a bad time.
I slowly lowered myself into the seat next to her. Jessica raised an eyebrow. "So, what you looking at, Wanda Weirdo?"
I looked away, and just stared forward. I wasn't going to look back and see if Eddie was looking. I heard whispering beside me. I caught the words "quirky isn't cool" again, followed by "creepy." I tried to sink lower in my seat, willing myself to turn invisible like a fairy. Fairies blend with their surroundings; it was a form of invisibility. I wished I could do it right now. Instead, I sank lower in my seat. I tried to blend with the floor. Then, I heard another laugh.
Excerpted from The Lost Secret of Dragonfire by Tiffany Turner. Copyright © 2013 by Tiffany Turner. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Chapter 1 Questions Unanswered.................... 1
Chapter 2 Discovery.................... 9
Chapter 3 Betrayal.................... 17
Chapter 4 Facing Your Fears.................... 27
Chapter 5 A Journey.................... 35
Chapter 6 The Dwarf City.................... 45
Chapter 7 New Friends.................... 57
Chapter 8 Sydney.................... 63
Chapter 9 Promises, Promises.................... 71
Chapter 10 A Meeting of the Minds.................... 77
Chapter 11 The Land of Queen Pele.................... 85
Chapter 12 The Little Things.................... 91
Chapter 13 Guilt and Sorrow.................... 97
Chapter 14 Back to the Past.................... 103