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A Prince Among Dragons

A Prince Among Dragons

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A Prince Among Dragons

Length:
170 pages
2 hours
Released:
Dec 10, 2014
ISBN:
9781928112174
Format:
Book

Description

A boy. A girl. An enchantment. After being enchanted, Prince John struggles to remember his humanity while learning dragon skills such as aeronautics and shape-shifting. His human friend Annabelle fights against the limitations of the medieval world, and a dragon race struggles to survive. Set in Ruthin Castle, Wales, A Prince Among Dragons is an enchanting story of friends discovering the fathomless bonds of friendship.

"All the ingredients readers love: adventure, magic, swords, and dragons. This is one of those books readers will read under the covers with a flashlight because they have to read one more chapter." Eileen Cook, multi-published author of Year of Mistaken Discoveries.

Released:
Dec 10, 2014
ISBN:
9781928112174
Format:
Book

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A Prince Among Dragons - B.A. Schellenberg

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

PROLOGUE

A BOY

John Edward:

A prince

Born to King Edward of England

and Queen Eleanor of Castile,

At Windsor Castle, England, on

June 17, 1281,

Hidden,

within Baron Grey’s family

in Ruthin Castle, Wales.

A GIRL

Annabelle:

A peasant,

Born to Constance, lady-in-waiting

to Queen Eleanor of Castile,

At Ruthin Castle, Wales, on

November 22, 1282,

Her sword,

hidden within Gweryd Lake

in Wales.

A PROPHECY

A stick figure and a beast overshadow the prince;

The beast shall consume royal blood,

A dragon sword shall remove the head,

And the cub shall destroy the lion.

1

AN ENCHANTMENT

There was no way out. Fifteen-year-old John sat through another lesson in boredom with the tutor: Latin and lots of history that was so dusty and old he couldn’t keep his mind on the details. Even as the tutor carefully unrolled a vellum map, John’s mind wandered. Ordinarily he didn’t mind the geography lesson. In fact, he enjoyed looking at the maps and seeing the waters surrounding the kingdom, smelling the imagined dirt and grit of battle. Maybe one of the maps showed the land from which his father would arrive, any day. The maps also showed Ruthin, Wales, where John had lived in obscurity his entire life, thanks to the prophecy told at his birth:

A stick figure and a beast overshadow the prince;

The beast shall consume royal blood,

A dragon sword shall remove the head,

And the cub shall destroy the lion.

The cursed prophecy. But on this day the rusty tutor had a talent for making even maps monotonous. Between his father’s upcoming arrival and the boys, it was impossible to concentrate. Or even escape into sleep. But Baron Grey’s boys made sleep impossible.

He felt someone behind him. About to turn, he noticed something that made him forget to be self-conscious: a squishy, cold, and clammy thing slithering down his back. He jumped up and pulled out his tunic from his breeches, clawing at his back as he did so. Bouncing up and down and violently shrugging his shoulders, he tried to get rid of whatever had joined him. At last it was gone. But not before every one of the four boys, his foster brothers, were laughing so hard they were holding their sides. Even the tutor was chuckling.

Feeling his face begin to flush, John stared at the ground, and noticed a movement. A poor frog hopped towards the door and John knew what had shared his tunic with him. I have to protect him, he thought. Just as he walked toward the door to help the frog leave, Aldric, the oldest and likely the one responsible for putting the frog down John’s shirt, reached the door first. Need help, frog? he asked in his snarling voice, and suddenly, he stomped down, hard, on the frog. Guts exploded everywhere, and dribbled down the walls.

No! John cried. He doubled over, fighting the bile coming up his throat. He had to get out of here. Now. Maybe Annabelle would be at home. His thoughts swam around his head: how could he leave without being noticed? How could he escape?

Suddenly, the raisin face of the tutor was close to his own. The tutor’s milky blue eyes focused on John’s sky blue eyes, and the tutor blinked. John? Perhaps we should stop for today. There was humour in the tutor’s voice.

How could he find a squashed frog amusing? John wondered. Of course. He’s laughing at me, not the frog.

The old man began collecting the quills, the parchments, the yellowed maps. Oh, and John. Clean up your mess.

It took John a moment before he realized the tutor was referring to the guts. Unbelievable. If only I could reveal my true identity, thought John. If only I could let the tutor know–let them all know. I am the firstborn son to King Edward, heir to the throne of England. Surely then they would leave me alone.

But, as always, he obeyed his father’s orders and remained silent.

Aldric sneered as he walked over the frog’s remains. It’s unfortunate I didn’t have one of my swords, he said. I could have speared you a bit of flesh for supper. He and his brothers shouldered past him, leaving John with the tutor and the mucky mess.

John turned to the tutor. I’ll have to get water, he said, hoping his plan would work.

Well, I suppose that’s acceptable, the tutor said. Just make sure to hurry back.

Forcing himself not to run, John passed Percival and Elliot, the unrelenting bodyguards. They sprang towards him, rather like hunting dogs surrounding their quarry. I will return. I have to get water from the well.

We’ll join you. The men moved in to walk on either side.

No, I am returning to my chamber for something. I will come back. A sting of guilt pricked John’s conscience for a moment, but then he swallowed hard and looked at the men. It wasn’t his fault he had to lie. This was his only opportunity for escape.

Return soon, said Percival, while Elliot glared.

Slowly, forcing himself to keep from hurrying like a frightened rabbit, John began to walk down the corridor. He could feel the men’s eyes staring, judging. His feet felt suddenly like worms, uncontrollable, and he tripped, landing on his side. His face got warmer as he glanced behind. Sure enough, the two guards were laughing.

Just for once, he thought, I wish people would see that I’m not a bumbling idiot. I get nervous with people watching. The two men were now holding the wall so they didn’t fall from guffawing so hard, and a few servants had joined them, pointing and giggling. John got up from the floor, straightened his tunic, then turned around the corner. He paused, listening. No sound. Letting out his breath in relief he walked quickly, and once out in the courtyard, he headed towards the well and then walked past it. To the east gate. Only a few more steps.

There was Thomas, the keeper. Beware, said Thomas, eyeing John, his face serious. Be on the lookout for Sorcerer Simeon, young John. He has been seen lurking about. But he allowed John to hurriedly pass through the gate.

Still Thomas honours his promise to my late mother, Queen Eleanor, thought John, after all these years. Thomas and John’s mother had developed a unique friendship, that of a Welsh commoner and a queen. They would sometimes joke about Thomas’s all-seeing eyes, and yet his need to be ever vigilant with John. Thomas would nod and say, Yes, Your Majesty. I will always have an extra eye for the young prince.

Perhaps the bond was great between Thomas and the queen because of their shared experience of few sons in a flock of daughters, John thought as he looked behind him and kept on. John and his little brother, Edward, were the lone males left of eighteen children born to their mother, the queen. Thomas’s wife conceived seven daughters in succession before Thomas was finally given one son, Kay. John smiled as he thought of Thomas’s son, Kay—fierce, but the smallest of Tom’s brood.

As he hurried from the castle grounds, the red-grey walls dwarfing him, he thought about Thomas’s warning. Sorcerer Simeon was around? John felt his pulse quicken. The sorcerer had always seemed to be a Welsh fable, rooted in surmise. Storytellers said the man was the great-great-great-grandson of Taliesin himself, a most powerful Welsh wizard. According to legend this Simeon was more powerful than the king himself and was a proclaimed enemy of the king. They said he could fly like a bird, swim like a fish. I hope I do meet him, John thought, so I can actually see someone who dares to openly oppose my father.

Past Ruthin Castle, and conscious of his freedom and the lack of watching eyes, John straightened his back and exalted in the autumn air. Grassy hills checkered with farms stretched as far as he could see, River Clwyd marching through. John’s stomach rumbled. That was the drawback of escaping–missing supper. Then he thought of Annabelle’s cooking, and his pace quickened. The crackling bacon, the bread dipped in egg batter.

He finally arrived at Annabelle’s simple home, and as he looked up at the thatched roof, the smoke drifting from the chimney, his stomach growled in appreciation of the smell of meat already cooking.

John! The girl, her adolescent face already showing the beautiful woman she would be in her strong chin and well-formed nose, proclaimed his name happily, then stood and curtseyed low.

Oh, come on, Annabelle, said the prince. There is no need for formality. Your mother isn’t here, is she?

Annabelle smiled. No, she’s still at the market. Shrugging, she added, It’s habit. Mother is always reminding me to remember my station. She continued in a higher, slower voice, Annabelle, just because you and Prince John grew up together, you must remember– and she giggled, returning to her cooking.

John sat down at the roughly hewn table. I must admit, it is encouraging that someone remembers who I really am. But let us disregard the pleasantries, shall we? He kicked off his boots and stretched his legs.

Annabelle nodded. She took a fine silver plate, the plate kept for the prince alone, placed the steaming bread and meat upon it, and laid it in front of John. Then she sat, watching him as he ate. Oh, please, said John, and he got up and served Annabelle himself. Sit.

Laughing, she sat across from him. If Mother comes in?

I’ll say it was my idea, John responded between mouthfuls.

I’m surprised you were able to leave with the king’s visit so soon upon us.

John’s mouth was too full for him to respond, so Annabelle asked, How long will it be until the guards figure out where you are this time?

John smiled. About as long as it takes for us to eat and get out of here. I just feel badly about the frog guts.

The what?

John explained what had happened at Ruthin Castle, of the defenseless frog and its demise.

The baron knows who you are. Why doesn’t he get his sons to stop tormenting you? You are the prince. Annabelle’s voice betrayed her fury. The king should kill them!

In all honesty? I think my father has forgotten about me. John flicked at a fly that hovered by his hand. Remember how Father put my little brother, Edward, in the public’s eye as the English prince when my big brother, Alfonso, died? You know Father says he has hidden me in Ruthin castle for my safety. I think I’ll be here forever.

The prophecy still frightens him, Annabelle murmured. She began: "‘A stick figure and a beast overshadow the prince; The beast shall consume royal blood, a dragon sword shall remove the head…’"

"’And the cub shall destroy the lion,’ John finished. He shook his head. I must talk to him this visit. I must convince him to either reveal my identity or let me leave. He swatted again at the fly. If Mother were alive, it might be different."

Annabelle jumped up to refill John’s plate. "Your mother, God rest her soul, loved you so much. My mother still speaks of your childhood, still proud to have been

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