Read Shadow Online

Authors: Mark Robson

Shadow

SIMON AND SCHUSTER

First published in Great Britain by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd, 2009
A CBS COMPANY

Copyright © Mark Robson
Cover illustration by David Wyatt © 2009

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.

The right of Mark Robson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,
1988.

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor
222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978-1-84738-069-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-47111-658-2

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, event or locales is entirely coincidental.

Typeset by Rowland Phototypesetting Ltd,
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Printed and bound by
CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

For Anne McCaffrey

It is impossible for me to write a series like this without paying tribute to ‘The Grand Dragonlady of Pern’. I always said I would never write dragon stories
because, for me, Anne owned dragons. In the end I just could not resist!

This dedication comes with gratitude for all the wonderful stories that entertained me in my teenage years . . . and in all the years since!

Acknowledgements

A huge thank you to my editor, Heather, for her encouragement, her hard work and her patience!

Many thanks also to my team of proof readers, but in particular to: Diane, Patrick and my ‘Mary Godmother’, whose help, support and ‘eagle eyes’ have
been invaluable.

Also by Mark Robson

Dragon Orb 1: Firestorm

Imperial Spy

Imperial Assassin

Imperial Traitor

For information on future

books and other stories

by Mark Robson, visit:

www.markrobsonauthor.com

Contents

1.
‘Imagine You’re a Bird.’

2.
Very Tasty

3.
The Hunter’s Instinct

4.
A Painful Awakening

5.
A Confident Guess

6.
‘They Are Fools.’

7.
Segun

8.
Warm Stones and a Fresh Start

9.
Like a Dark Angel

10.
A Brief Respite

11.
Into the Jaws

12.
‘You’re a Bad Girl, Kira!’

13.
The Sound of Silence

14.
Outlaws

15.
Doubling Up

16.
Dangerous Entertainment

17.
A Tricky Confrontation

18.
Questions, Questions

19.
An Unexpected Delay

20.
Valley of the Griffins

21.
The Challenge

22.
Battling it Out

23.
The Knife

24.
The Second Orb

Chapter One

‘Imagine You’re a Bird.’

Release the dark orb – death brings me life.

Take brave ones’ counsel, ’ware ye the knife.

Exercise caution, stay pure and heed,

Yield unto justice: truth will succeed.

‘They should’ve listened to me,’ Pell muttered as he powered away from the campsite on Shadow’s back. ‘Kira can twist my words all she likes, but I
should be the leader of this quest.’

As he considered his three companions, it took a moment for Pell to realise he was grinding his teeth in frustration. In his heart he felt the Oracle’s Great Quest to seek out the fabled
dragon orbs and return them to the Dragon Spirit in the heart of Orupee’s highest mountain range was a task worthy of heroes. Why then had the Oracle chosen these others to go with him? Kira,
rider of the dusk dragon, Longfang, was perhaps the most irritating. Of the three she showed the most promise, but she was stubborn and would not listen to reason.

‘Don’t fret, dragonrider,’
his night dragon, Shadow, whispered in his mind, her silky voice caressing.
‘They’ll see things differently when we return
with the night orb.’

Pell had always marvelled at Shadow’s voice, so totally at odds with her fearsome exterior. If he closed his eyes and listened to that voice in his head, it was easy to imagine Shadow as a
beautiful maiden, dark and mysterious. And she
was
beautiful – it just took a certain perspective to see past the vicious horns and teeth of the enormous night dragon.

‘They need our strength,’
Shadow continued.
‘Firestorm and Nolita are hopeless. I’ve never seen such an unlikely partner for a day dragon. Given their
weaknesses, it is hard to see why the others want to seek the day orb first.’

Shadow was right. How Elian, rider of a dawn dragon, could describe Nolita as ‘brave’ was beyond him. The boy was so naïve! The blond girl was the most craven person Pell had
ever met. Nolita was pretty enough, with her delicate features and her fine blond hair, but her cringing and weeping was repulsive. Kira, on the other hand, was annoying – but at least there
was some fire in her personality. The Racafian tribal girl went out of her way to appear fierce, with her face paint and her weapons. Given the right set of circumstances, Pell would have found her
interesting. In reality, however, he knew they would likely clash over most issues.

‘I’m better off working alone,’ he breathed.

‘You’ll never be alone,’
Shadow purred in his mind.

‘Of course not, Shadow,’ he replied, quickly. ‘Sorry. I phrased that badly. I didn’t mean to exclude you. I should have said, “We’re better off working
independently.” We make a fantastic team, you and I, and we’re destined for greatness. Why else were we chosen for the Great Quest? There won’t be any dull peace talks or boring
guard duties in our future. We’ll do deeds that will be the talk of generations.’

The soothing rhythm of Shadow’s wingbeats and the exhilaration he felt as they climbed between the mountains calmed Pell’s thoughts. Higher and higher they went, until even the
highest peaks fell away beneath them. Looking down from such a lofty height, it was easy to imagine himself as king of the world. How could anyone in Areth who did not ride a dragon believe they
were lord over anything? To soar above the highest mountains was an experience reserved for the elite. No walls were high enough to deny him entry. The world was his playground. Who would argue
with the rider of a dragon like Shadow? None but a fool – a fool with a death wish.

The Oracle’s riddling words might be twisted beyond comprehension, but Pell could see the path they paved in his mind’s eye. It glittered as if studded with diamonds. Glory awaited
him. He could feel it in his heart as surely as the sun would set.

Silently he urged Shadow on. For two season rotations he had longed for the acceptance and respect of his fellow night dragon riders. Until now, they had treated him as a boy, because he had not
yet visited the Oracle. This time it would be different, he thought, satisfaction warming his stomach with a burning sensation that was pure pleasure. His was a special destiny – the night
dragon rider entrusted with the fate of the Oracle. By his actions the Dragon Spirit would live or die. It was an awesome responsibility and one with which he would prove his worth.

The air was bitterly cold as they cruised across the mountain range. While the wind at ground level had dropped to nothing, here, thousands of spans up into the sky, a steady westerly breeze
aided their journey. Pell let go of the pommel and clapped his mitts together a few times in an effort to trigger more blood flow. His fingers, toes, cheeks, ears and the tip of his nose were numb,
but he was reluctant to ask Shadow to descend. He was eager to cover as much ground as possible before they took a break. It took a lot of effort and energy for Shadow to get up this high, so they
should make the most of it.

The sun marched steadily across the sky as they pressed eastwards, but although it blazed golden in the clear blue heavens, Pell felt none of its warmth. By the time the final majestic peaks
slipped past slowly beneath them, he knew he had to descend, or risk frostbite. He had seen other riders with missing fingers and toes. The cold was a subtle and sadistic enemy.

‘Let’s go down, Shadow,’
he projected. He doubted that his lips could form the words even if he wished to speak aloud.
‘I need to warm up and I’m sure
you would welcome a short break.’

‘Your endurance does you credit,’
Shadow replied.
‘Not many riders show your resilience. We have already flown far today. With our combined strength we will reach
the enclave faster than many would believe possible.’

Pell wanted to smile at her praise, but the muscles in his face were too cold to respond. He loved it when Shadow talked like this. It made him feel warm inside. He had known from the instant
they had met that they were perfectly matched. They were both competitive and strong. They both wanted power and recognition. Perhaps more importantly, however, they both recognised the potential
their joining offered. A strong dragon with a strong rider could do great things.

Shadow eased gently into a shallow dive. As they accelerated, the wind-rush began to build and Pell bent low over the pommel of his saddle in an effort to reduce the biting chill of the bitter
airflow. In order to crouch so low, he had to lean to one side or the other of the great ridge of dragon horn in front of the saddle. He chose to lean to the left. Initially this was fine, but as
their speed continued to increase Pell suddenly realised that the force of the air was dragging him further left and out of the saddle.

He tried to pull himself back up straight, but his body refused to respond. Panic flashed through him. His hands had no strength to grip. His legs were numb with cold against the dragon’s
back. He could not tell if his feet were still in the stirrups. There was nothing he could do. Without a miracle, he was going to fall.

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