After the tragic death of his father, a local firefighting hero, Jake's absent grandfather returns and sends him on a journey into the gated forest at the edge of town, bringing Jake face-to-face with a family of ancient dragons thought long extinct.
Determined to grasp the power of the blood flowing through Jake's veins, the agent from the secret ONX facility begins killing every dragon in his path. This forces Jake in the middle of a battle between the government and the dragons of Asheville, where the true potential of his power is revealed.
|Publisher:||Magic Penny Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.47(d)|
About the Author
JDA is his debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
Jim Winston raced his family toward the Crystal Coast in their SUV, packed and ready for the beach. On any other day, Jim would be running drills at the Asheville Fire Station, but today he was chasing dark storm clouds threatening their day at the ocean. It was the last leg of their annual six-hour summer journey to the white sands of Emerald Isle, and they were antsy from the long ride.
Emerald Isle was just a fancy name the city adopted to attract tourists. The Winstons had traveled there since Jim's father, Don, discovered what was once a quiet beach called Bogue Banks. Passing the old gas station, where they'd stop off for an ice cream or a bathroom break, jogged Jim's memory every trip. But each time, he would push those thoughts back.
Looking at his wife June in the passenger seat helped him forget the moment he and Don decided they were better off away from each other. She was resting in a worn-out Ramones t-shirt; her long brown hair blew in the wind from the cracked-open window. Her soft skin and perfect lips sparkled in the sunlight. Jim shook his head, wondering how he got so lucky.
He peeked over to make sure her eyes were closed, then pushed the accelerator to pass the car in front of them, winking at his son, Jake, in the backseat.
When Jake looked at his father, with his chiseled jaw, thick black hair, and natural solid build, he didn't just see a fireman, he saw his hero. He remembered a few years back when they were alone in the car. Jim placed him in his lap, allowing him to steer while cruising down the road at the edge of the forest. Raising his hands up, he pretended to grip the wheel, while making the sound of the engine as it increased speed.
June, feeling the acceleration, opened her eyes and shot Jim a familiar look, one that said slow down.
"What? I'm just keeping up with the flow."
"Have you forgotten about last year already? Keep flowing like that and you'll get another ticket."
Jim snapped on the radio, "I wanna get there before the rain starts." Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" was playing. "Perfect timing," he laughed, tapping the dash with the drum beat. "What are the odds?"
"God." June shook her head. "Does that song have to follow us everywhere? Can you find a New Wave station? Anything but this?"
Jim pretended not to hear, and kept grooving to the tune. He leaned closer to the windshield to get a better look at the clouds, "That skyline looks angry. We're not gonna have much time today."
June reached over and scratched his beard, "Another no-shave vacay there, grizzly?"
Jim playfully grabbed her fingers with his teeth, "I thought you liked it."
"I do ... just with a little less lumberjack."
Jim smiled, "Keeps the sharks away, baby."
June looked out at the inlet, "You ever hear back from Don?"
"You're the better man. Would have been strange with him here, anyway."
Jim remained silent.
"Sorry, hon. I shouldn't have brought that up."
Sitting next to Jake was his four-year-old sister, Lula. She was tucked in her car seat, stuffing her mouth full of grapes. June leaned into the back seat and grabbed the bag before she could devour the whole bunch. "Where did you get that blond hair from, little girl? Did we bring the wrong baby home from the hospital?" She tapped Lula's nose, "Boop."
Lula smiled, throwing her arms forward to snatch at the bag.
Jake opened his window, enjoying the warm salty breeze, "Mom, I can smell the water."
"We'll be there in a minute." June looked back with a grin. "So, my big eighth grader, you excited about fall?"
Rolling his eyes, Jake replied, "Whatever."
"Maybe you'll get Amanda in your class ... little birdie told me she has a crush on you."
"Stop it, Mom."
Jim turned to June, "Amanda, is that the blonde girl that lives by Arnie?"
"Yeah. Rick and Sara's girl. We had them over for dinner last year, remember?"
Jim used the rearview mirror to look at Jake, "Hey, speaking of Arnie, could be your last year together, huh?"
June interrupted, "Why's that?"
"His parents might be sending him to a private school next year."
"Well, who knows, kiddo. We might be able to make that happen for you, too," Jim said.
Elbowing him, "Don't be making promises you can't keep."
Lula wormed out of her car seat and dropped to the floor, rummaging in the beach bag for more snacks.
"Mom, she got out again."
"Well, put her back in."
"I have, like twelve times, she just keeps getting out."
Jake reached down, lifted Lula from the floor, and placed her in the car seat. While fastening her belt, he noticed a book in her hand.
"Lula, where'd you get this?"
Jim turned his head, "Hey, she found it!"
"Secrets of Asheville's Past?" Jake read aloud.
"Dragons!" Jim yelled, startling June.
She grabbed the steering wheel, "Jim, watch the road."
"Dragons?" Jake asked.
"Oh, man. I thought I stashed it in the back. Was gonna give it to you at the beach."
Leafing through the pages, Jake asked, "What is this?"
"Ever hear of The Order of the Dragon?"
"Okay, so we're talking ... I think, 15th century. King Sigismund —"
"I know, funny name, right? Anyway, this guy formed The Order of the Dragon. Story goes, he made a secret pact with the dragons. No one knows for sure what it was, but in return, he was allowed to use them in battle. They must have been the ultimate weapon, man!"
"Yep, dragons. And not only was this king smart, he was rich! He charged the other rulers in his region a hefty chunk of gold to use them."
"Jim, can you please slow down?"
"Right. Sorry hon, we can talk more about this later, buddy."
"Why can't we talk about it now?"
"Because we're here!" Jim yelled, finding a spot to park between a pair of beach houses.
The Winstons hopped out of their air-conditioned vehicle to be welcomed by the sweltering heat of August. When June closed her door, she immediately began fanning her face with a magazine, "Okay then, have some humidity. I think I'm already sweating. How do you trick me into forgetting about this every year?"
Jim walked up from behind and kissed her neck. "You know you love it here."
June giggled, "You love it here. Cut it out, that tickles." Pulling herself free, "Alright everyone, time for sunscreen!"
Jake grabbed his boogie board from the trunk, tucked the book inside his bag, and rushed toward the horizon. Finding a nice spot, he tossed everything aside and hurried over the hot sand, dragging his board to the ocean. He let the water crash against his shins, cooling his scalded feet, while watching the waves set up.
"Let's go!" Jim yelled, diving under a small incoming wave and popping up on the other side.
Jake saw his moment. He jumped in and worked his way toward Jim, giving him a thumbs up when he made it past the break point. He turned and paddled hard. The swell built to six feet before scooping him up.
He was having the time of his life until he felt his body begin to tip forward. The wave grew larger as it pushed closer to the shore, forcing him underwater before it slammed into the beach. The undertow pulled Jake back out, then tumbled him like a rag doll. His jaw hit the sand on the bottom, knocking out what little breath he had left. Just as he gained his bearings, Jim reached down and pulled Jake to the surface, coughing up a mouthful of salt water.
"Hey buddy. You alright? Choppy out here today. It's the storm coming."
Jake pulled his bathing suit down to dump the sand out, "I'm fine."
Jim saw blood, "Ah, crap. You hit the bottom. Let's go get you fixed up."
Jake followed his father to where June was laying out on the beach. Along the way, he couldn't help wonder why he didn't feel any pain. He'd hit the bottom hard, but could only remember being disoriented, at worst.
"We've got our first casualty."
June rolled over and saw the gash on Jake's chin, "Well, that didn't take long, Dad. Honey, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Mom."
Reaching into her bag for ointment and a bandage, "We'll get that taken care of right now."
"Tell me more about the dragons."
"Of course. So, where did I leave off?"
"The guy that started The Order."
"So yeah, Sigismund had the life. He controlled the dragons for almost eighty years. They say, when he was dying, he swapped control of The Order to King Stefan under the condition that he marry his daughter and get them out of war-torn Moldavia. He wanted to ensure his bloodline continued."
"So, Stefan came across the Atlantic?"
"No, he would never go first. He sent his trusted Captain Thaddeus. This guy was a badass. Survived pirate attacks. Made his name by sailing into dangerous ports, transporting valuable cargo for the king."
"Yeah, but it didn't go as planned. After the earthquakes, the captain —"
"Let me read the rest. You're gonna ruin it."
"Right, sorry. I get carried away," Jim said, putting his arm around Jake. "I'm heading back in. You coming?"
"Nah, I'm going to stay here."
"Suit yourself!" Jim ran toward the water and dove into a wave.
Jake grabbed a beach chair. He sat and watched his mother scoop wet sand with Lula, as they prepped to build a giant sandcastle. Jim was swimming in the waves, distancing himself from the shore. Further down the beach were only a few scattered tourists, their voices washed away by the crashing waves and noisy seagulls. A dragonfly hovered nearby, playing in the ocean breeze.
Jake opened the book.
The people of Moldavia were no strangers to turmoil, calloused from years of battles with the Ottomans. When the earthquakes hit, they confused the chaos with enemy fire, and ran from their crumbling homes. Outside, they found even greater danger in the ruptured streets.
Captain Thaddeus ran to his horse, tied-off at the entrance of King Stefan's castle. Frightened by the mayhem, the steed jerked his head and kicked his hind legs. The captain held onto the reins tightly, knowing this was his best chance to get through the rubble. Once the aftershocks subsided, Thaddeus calmed the horse long enough to mount him, then they took off through the city. He didn't get far before the quakes continued. This time, his horse bucked, throwing Thaddeus into an abandoned storefront, and ran off. The captain broke the fall with his hands, skidding onto his chest. He lay dazed, face buried in the dirt, when a lone Ottoman soldier crept out of the darkness, placing his rifle into Thaddeus' cheek. The soldier's fear was evident, his firearm shaking from weak nerves. Rising to his feet, the captain spit out a chipped tooth, grinned, then snatched the firearm and threw it into the street. He stepped closer to the man, looked down and said, "Now would be the time to run."
"Hey! What the heck!" Jake jumped out of his chair with sand pouring from his head. Lula stood, smiling, holding her empty bucket. When Jake raised the book to shake off the sand, a small piece of old parchment fell out. The paper was stained, blackish in color. Flipping it over, he noticed the word Destovan? written in faded ink. Not thinking much of it, Jake slipped the paper back between the pages.
"Honey, can you help her for a little while? I need what little sun worship I can get."
June stretched out on her towel, while Jake lugged buckets of wet sand to Lula. It took about an hour before they had a beautiful castle with multiple towers.
"Hey, Mom, check it out."
"Great job," June said, pulling her sunglasses down, then adjusting her black one-piece to check her tan line.
As Jake searched for his dad, to show off the castle, Lula set her stuffed unicorn on top of the corner tower with too much force.
"Lula! Mom? She's ruining the castle."
June ignored Jake, and instead, tossed him a can of sunblock, "I don't want her getting burned."
"Mom, is this the same place we always come to? It looks different."
"Yes, it is. And as long as your father's around, I won't be able to convince him to go anywhere else. You're welcome to try." She got up to feed Lula her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. "Where is Dad?"
Jake looked out to sea. Jim was floating in the water, a long way out. Pointing, he said, "He's out there."
He walked back to his chair and returned to the book.
Ominous clouds draped the port as Thaddeus arrived at the docks. King Stefan's men were rushing to load the royal chests full of riches onto Thaddeus's ship, La Tormenta, for the long journey to the Americas.
As the captain steered the ship away from the docks, the ocean floor fractured, spewing molten lava into the water, dramatically altering the tide. Thaddeus knew he had to get further out to sea to be safe. Raising the sails, he used the weak draft to pull them as far away from the port as possible. He knew they weren't out of harm's way yet. The shift in the tide churned up massive swells. The captain narrowly escaped the harbor, just seconds before a tsunami rolled inland, destroying everything in its path.
Just as Jake was imagining the wreckage, a Frisbee knocked the book from his hands. He looked up to see Jim waving at him from the water.
"I don't want to. I wanna read!" Jake yelled, pointing at the book.
"Get your butt out here! You can read later!"
Jake peeled his sweaty backside off the chair. As he walked to his father, the sky grew darker with every step.
"Storm will be here soon. You sure you don't want to come in?"
Jim ruffled Jake's hair. "So you like the book, huh?"
"Yeah, it's great."
"I knew you would. You get to the part where Thaddeus sails for America?"
"No, not yet."
"Well, not to give anything away, but this is where he landed, on this shore. Before there was Asheville, when all these places had different names."
"That's so cool. Is that why we come here every year?"
"The Winstons have been coming here forever. But, yes, that's part of it."
Jake's mind wandered. He picked up a small shell and examined it.
Jim glanced at it, then started to drift off himself. "Monkey crab?"
Jake shook his head, "Fiddler. What's a monkey crab?"
Jim looked toward the pier, lost in thought.
He snapped out of his haze, "Yeah ... yeah, sorry. Your grandfather used to call them monkey crabs when I was little."
"Where is grandpa?"
Sidestepping the question, Jim hurled the Frisbee. "Go long, kiddo."
They tossed it back and forth for a while, then Jim jumped back into the ocean.
"Last chance," he said, treading water.
Jake shook his head.
"Tomorrow," Jim said, swimming away from shore, "I'm holding you to it."
After walking back to his chair, Jake plopped down and flipped through the pages to find his spot in the book.
Thaddeus ordered his first mate to guide La Tormenta toward the Bosphorus Strait, as two of his crew approached, escorting a gray-bearded man.
"We found him below deck, Captain."
Thaddeus sized him up. It was obvious he was a man of means. "You're not a vagrant. Where the hell did you come from?"
The man remained silent.
"He was trying to hide these from us, but we got 'em. They might be worth something, Captain."
"Yeah, Cap ... can't be sure, but we had to pry these away from him," the other crewman said.
Thaddeus held out his hands. His subordinates were hesitant, but relinquished two magnificent, semi-transparent green stones. Transfixed by their beauty, the captain examined the rocks. The stones appeared to be alive; their outer layer seeming to depict something otherworldly. He looked at the stowaway for an explanation, but got nothing but smoke vapors escaping his nostrils. Thaddeus took a hard look at the man before he spoke.
"You got a name?"
"I've got money, that'll pay my way."
Turning to his quarter master, he ordered, "Lock him up and stand guard."
Thaddeus took a closer look at the stones. He'd never seen anything like them in his travels. Holding them up to the light of the moon, he saw it again. It was like a distant world inside them, slowly moving with the magnetic pull of the earth. They had to be more than uncut gems. Before anyone else noticed, he secured them with the King's guarded cargo. When he returned to the deck, there was a lot of talking among the men.
"Captain!" His first mate was pointing, "Sir, look!"
Thaddeus turned his attention to the night sky. The moon was obscured by an army of dragons flying overhead; their shadows rolling over the ship as they ripped through the clouds.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Jake & the Dragons of Asheville"
Copyright © 2017 Brian Kacica.
Excerpted by permission of Magic Penny Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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