Read The Storm Dragon Online

Authors: Paula Harrison

The Storm Dragon (5 page)

“Why are we stopping, Sophy?” asked Cloudy.

Sophy stared at the emptiness where the drawbridge should have been. A cold feeling of dread grew inside her. She didn’t want to panic – that would only upset Cloudy – but what was she going to do?

“I just need to think,” she told the little dragon. “The guards have pulled up the drawbridge and I don’t know any other way across the moat.”

“What is a moat?” Cloudy jumped down from
her arms and sniffed the gate in front of them.

“It’s the big circle of water that stretches around the castle wall,” explained Sophy.

Cloudy climbed on to the wall to take a look.

Sophy climbed up beside him. Beneath them, the moat glinted in the faint moonlight. She wished there was a way to get down, then maybe they could swim across together. She’d swum in the moat once with Tom, although they’d climbed in on the other side.

“Cloudy, can you swim?”

“Yes, but I don’t like it very much,” Cloudy said anxiously.

Behind them, the castle door burst open. A troop of guards holding lanterns marched down the steps, while Sir Fitzroy stood at the top, glaring round. “Search the whole grounds!” he shouted. “That beast is out here somewhere and its magic is already ruining our castle. Don’t come back without it!”

Sophy’s heart thumped. The guards could
find them in seconds. Cloudy would be captured and she would be in deep trouble. She was a maid – she was supposed to clean and dust, not rescue magical animals and set them free!

She glanced down at the moat again. It wasn’t as big a drop as she’d thought. It was their only way out – if they were brave enough to take it.

“Cloudy,” she whispered. “I think we have to jump in the moat. They’ll catch us, otherwise.”

“No moat!” whimpered Cloudy. “Swimming is yucky. I want my wings to work. I want to fly!” He tried to hide his face against Sophy’s shoulder.

“We’ll jump together,” said Sophy. “Please, Cloudy.”

The baby dragon shivered and shook his head.

“I’ll hold on to you, I promise,” Sophy pleaded.

At last, Cloudy nodded.

Sophy tried to breathe slowly to calm her
nerves. She could do this. The moat was safe and she knew how to swim. Standing on top of the wall, she held Cloudy tight. Then she jumped off.

For a few moments they fell through the darkness. Then they hit the moat with a splash. The water closed over their heads before they floated back to the surface. Sophy took a big gulp of air and looked around. She realised she’d let go of Cloudy when they hit the water. Where was he?

The little dragon’s face popped up beside her.

“Cloudy! Are you all right?” Sophy gasped.

Cloudy flapped his one good wing to keep himself afloat, splashing her with water. “Yes. But yuck – this is horrible!”

“You’re very brave!” said Sophy. “Quick, let’s get to the bank.”

Together, they swam to the other side and pulled themselves on to the grassy bank. They lay there for a minute, dripping and trying to catch their breath. Sophy’s blue dress was soaked and she had to empty the water out of her shoes. Cloudy shook himself, showering her
with water all over again. He sneezed and a little flame shot out of his nostrils.

 A lantern appeared at the top of the wall and a guard called, “I think I saw something.”

“Shall we check down there?” another guard replied. “It must have been something big – those splashes were huge.”

“Quick!” Sophy scrambled up and dodged behind the nearest tree.

Cloudy rushed after her and clung on to her leg. “I’m scared!”

“Don’t worry!” Sophy picked him up. “Tom told me where the dragonweed grows. I’m going to find some for you. I’m hoping it’ll fix your wing.”

A colossal creaking followed by a booming sound made them both jump. Sophy knew it was the drawbridge being lowered and that meant guards would be coming down the hill to search for Cloudy.

Keeping to the shadows, she rushed away from the moat and climbed the fence into the field next door. Setting Cloudy down, she scoured the grass.

“Dragonweed has orange flowers,” she muttered to herself. “Where is it?”

The moon came out from behind a cloud, casting its pale light over the meadow. Sophy was glad for the extra light until she remembered that the guards would be able to find them more easily. She crouched down, searching desperately. There were pink trillies and white star candy flowers, but nothing that looked orange.

Suddenly, Sophy spotted some flame-coloured petals dotted among the grass. The plant had pale-green leaves and the orange flower was shaped like a bell.

“Cloudy, is this dragonweed?” she hissed.

Cloudy bounded over. “Yes! Well done, Sophy.”

“How does it work? Do you have to eat it?” She picked the flame-coloured flower and offered it to him.

He shook his head. “Not the flowers – the leaves.”

“Oh!” Sophy swiftly picked the dragonweed leaves and gave them to Cloudy.

He chewed them eagerly before lifting his crooked wing. “It’s starting to work.” He gave a huge belch and a green flame shot out of his mouth. “More, more!”

Sophy picked more dragonweed leaves. Cloudy munched those too and then flapped his wings. This time his injured left wing looked as strong as the right one!

A row of bobbing lantern lights came down the hill towards them.

“Go on, Cloudy! Fly!” shouted Sophy.

The little dragon started beating his wings. Sophy ran alongside him, flapping her arms and willing him to fly. His wing beats grew stronger and stronger and his feet lifted from the ground. He turned his amber eyes to Sophy, beaming all over his puppy-like face.

“I love you, Sophy! I’ll miss you!” He soared into the air.

Sophy watched him rise higher and higher. Then she dodged behind some bushes as guards rushed into the meadow.

“Did you hear that strange squeaking?” one guard said. “Do you think that was the dragon?”

“Must have been,” said another. “Look at that!”

Sophy peeped through the leaves to see what the guard meant. The moon had come out from behind a cloud again, flooding the sky with pale light. A dark shape was moving closer. At first it seemed like another cloud, but as it grew Sophy saw that it was a huge flight of dragons! Their wings were rising and falling in time with each other.

A shout went up from the guards. “Arm the battlements!”

The wind grew stronger and the trees swayed. The dragons swooped down until they reached a small winged shape that was flying up to meet them. Cloudy had found his dragon family at last!

The flight of dragons whirled around and flew away into the distance, taking their baby dragon with them.

Sophy waited till the guards had gone back up the hill. Then she came out of her hiding place. She searched the dark sky for Cloudy and the other dragons but she was sure they must be far away by now.

Suddenly she felt really tired and her eyes ached. She missed Cloudy. There were so many things she wished she’d asked him. Were there many storm dragons in Arramia? What did the Great Ocean sound like? What did it feel like to fly?

Brushing leaves off her damp dress, she hurried up the hill and across the drawbridge. Sir Fitzroy was standing by the front door to the castle telling off the guards. Then he stormed inside and slammed the castle door.

Sophy was turning away when she noticed a dark, cloud-like shape moving towards the castle very quickly. She caught her breath. It wasn’t a cloud. It was a dragon … and it was much too big to be Cloudy! She rushed to the castle wall.

A huge creature with dark-green scales swooped down and hovered beside the castle wall. The dragon looked just like Cloudy, with the same amber-coloured eyes.

“I’m Windrunner – Cloudy’s brother,” growled the dragon softly. “And you must be Sophy.”

Sophy’s voice stuck in her throat. “P-pleased to meet you!”

Windrunner blinked slowly. “It’s pretty strange, talking to a human. I didn’t believe
Cloudy when he first told us.”

“Hello, Sophy!” Cloudy peered down from his brother’s back.

Sophy grinned. “Cloudy! I didn’t see you up there.”

“I told the other dragons all about you!” Cloudy beamed.

“Then I made Windrunner fly back to check that horrible man wasn’t being mean to you again!”

“Don’t worry – I’m fine!” said Sophy.

“Why don’t you come with us for a ride?” said Windrunner. “I know the other storm dragons really want to meet you.”

“I’d love to!” Sophy felt a fluttering in her
stomach. She couldn’t believe she was going to fly on a dragon. “It’s really kind of you!” she told Windrunner.

“Any friend of Cloudy’s is a friend of mine.” Windrunner flew closer to the castle wall. “Hop on!”

Sophy scrambled on to Windrunner’s scaly back and sat down behind Cloudy.

The baby dragon grinned at her. “You’re going to love flying!”

Sophy hugged Cloudy tight as Windrunner soared into the air. A tingle ran down her back as they gained speed and her hair streamed out behind her in the wind. She gazed down at the lantern-lit castle, amazed at how small everything looked from high above.

With a few more beats of Windrunner’s huge wings, they left the castle far behind. After a while, Cloudy fell asleep, and Sophy watched the land roll by beneath them.

It was still dark but when the moon came out she could see houses, fields and woods. Windrunner climbed high and wisps of cloud clung to Sophy’s dress and hair. She was sure she heard music in the distance and wondered if it was the song of the star wolves. She strained to listen but it vanished beneath the breeze.

As dawn drew closer, the sky lightened and the two planets shone in the morning light. Sophy’s heart began to race. There were no houses
and villages on the ground beneath them. This must be the wilds – the place where the magical creatures lived. There were strange sights everywhere. Sophy stared at the giant red-and-white toadstools growing in a forest clearing and smiled at a cloud of glittering butterflies dancing in a meadow.

Windrunner flew above a winding river that gleamed like a silver ribbon in the morning light. At last, his wings grew slower and he
glided down to an island in the middle of the river. Wing beats filled the air as the other storm dragons flew down to meet them. Thunder roared and wind blasted Sophy’s face so that she had to close her eyes. She heard voices in the breeze and she knew the storm dragons were calling each other.

Windrunner landed smoothly and Sophy slid off his back on to the grass. Cloudy woke up and flapped down beside her.

Dragons gathered round them, looking curiously at Sophy. With long tails and round snouts, they looked like Cloudy and Windrunner but much, much bigger.

“Greetings, child.” A dragon with a serious face and a long bumpy tail stepped forward. “My name is Mistral. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yes!” Sophy tried not to feel nervous with all the dragons looking at her. “I have a magic stone—”

“Show us this stone, child,” said Mistral, his eyes brightening.

Sophy lifted the thread over her neck and pulled the pieces of the stone apart to show them the cave of purple crystals that lay inside.

A rumble like thunder passed round the circle of dragons.

“That is a Speaking Stone,” said Mistral. “I haven’t seen one in a very long time. You must be careful with it, child. A Speaking Stone is very powerful and very precious. Each stone chooses a keeper and will work for that person alone.”

“Oh! So that’s why it wouldn’t work for Tom.” Sophy took out the little bag and showed them the other rocks inside. “So these other stones I found could be magical too? Do they all let people talk to dragons?”

“Yes, but not just dragons,” Mistral told her. “The Speaking Stones let you talk to any magical creature.”

Sophy’s eyes lit up. “That’s amazing! But are you sure I should keep it? I’m a maid at the castle. I’m not anyone special.”

“The stone chose you because you
special,” Mistral said quietly. “We magical creatures need more help than ever now that the old king is gone. Some people are kind to us but many more believe we’re dangerous. There are dark times ahead.”

Sophy met his gaze. “I’ll do anything I can to help you.”

“Thank you!” said Mistral, and all the dragons bowed their heads to her. “Windrunner will fly you back to your castle now and if you ever need us to carry you again, we would be honoured to do so.”

“Thank you!” Sophy climbed on to Windrunner’s back and waved to the storm dragons. “Goodbye!” She smiled at Cloudy and gave him a special wave as Windrunner lifted off the ground.

While they flew high above the river, Sophy gazed at her Speaking Stone. Then she patted the bag of stones in her pocket. It was amazing to think that all those little rocks were magical too! Excitement fizzed inside her. The power in her stone would let her speak to all magical creatures. She’d be able to talk to a cloud bear or a firebird or a unicorn!

As they swooped over a green valley, three golden songbirds flew up to meet them.

“Windrunner, you’re carrying a girl on your back,” said one of the birds in a voice like a tinkling bell.

“Yes, this is Sophy. She is our friend. She has a magical stone that lets her speak to us.” Windrunner slowed and hovered in the air. “Sophy, meet the songbirds. They carry messages across the kingdom.”

“Hello!” Sophy smiled at the birds, remembering the songbird that had helped her find the bag of stones.

“Do you have any news?” Windrunner asked the birds.

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