Dragonwatch, p.1
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       Dragonwatch, p.1

           Brandon Mull
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Dragonwatch


  Also by Brandon Mull

  Series:

  Fablehaven

  The Candy Shop War

  Beyonders

  Five Kingdoms

  Books:

  The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven

  Fablehaven Book of Imagination

  Spirit Animals

  © 2017 Brandon Mull

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, Shadow Mountain®. The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Shadow Mountain.

  All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Visit us at ShadowMountain.com

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Mull, Brandon, 1974– author.

  Title: Dragonwatch / Brandon Mull.

  Description: Salt Lake City, Utah : Shadow Mountain, [2017] | First in a sequel series to Fablehaven. | Summary: Because Dragonwatch, an ancient group of wizards, enchantresses, and dragon slayers, is crumbling, an uprising of dragons threatens to destroy the magical preserves as well as overrun the nonmagical world.

  Identifiers: LCCN 2016043181 | ISBN 9781629722566 (hardbound : alk. paper)

  Subjects: | CYAC: Magic—Fiction. | Dragons—Fiction.

  Classification: LCC PZ7.M9112 Dr 2017 | DDC [Fic]—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016043181

  Printed in the United States of America

  LSC Communications, Crawfordsville, IN

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Cover illustration by Brandon Dorman

  Cover design © Shadow Mountain

  Art direction: Richard Erickson

  Design: Sheryl Dickert Smith

  For my partners in dragon tag:

  Sadie, Chase, Rose, and Calvin

  Contents

  Eavesdropping

  A Promise Kept

  The Fairy Realm

  Jubaya Speaks

  Visitors

  The Tiny Hero

  Steal the Bacon

  Reprimanded

  Dragonwatch

  Caretakers Wanted

  A New Beginning

  Interview

  New Job

  Luvians

  The Fair Folk

  Hints

  The Somber Knight

  Off the Road

  Bridges and Bears

  Dromadus

  Path of Dreams

  Banquet

  Scepter

  Race to the Keep

  Recruits

  Gambit

  Alone

  Acceptance

  Acknowledgments

  Note to Readers

  Reading Guide

  About the Author

  From the Journal of Stan Sorenson

  Could this be the end?

  Will I be counted among the last of the caretakers? Could this long-standing trust dissolve during my watch?

  I have loved Fablehaven since I first beheld the wonders disguised here. Most in the modern world cannot guess at the splendors concealed on these enchanted refuges, where creatures of legend hunt and frolic. More than fifty years have passed since Fablehaven won my heart.

  But it comes with a price.

  How far am I willing to go to fulfill my duty? To protect the magical sanctuaries of the world? I made peace with sacrificing my own life long ago. But what about the lives of others? What about my family?

  I have longed to share the marvels of Fablehaven with those I love most. But knowledge of those miracles means exposure to the dangers as well. Magical creatures can dazzle. They can also kill. For me, the wonder outweighs the threat. But what right do I have to make that decision for another?

  I never forced anyone to discover what is really happening at Fablehaven. Certainly not my grandchildren. But I let their curiosity lead them to the truth. After drinking the milk from Viola, the magical milch cow, Kendra and Seth could recognize that the butterflies here were actually fairies, the goats were satyrs, and the horses were centaurs. That first time is so incredible. And it never becomes ordinary.

  I could have prevented it. But I allowed Fablehaven to unfold for them.

  Inevitably, it took hold of them. As it always does.

  And peril followed.

  Kendra and Seth know my real reason for living at Fablehaven. As caretaker, I serve the inhabitants of this preserve and protect the outside world from them. I am fed by experiences that stretch the definition of reality. I behold spectacles known by none except those with access to these extraordinary sanctuaries.

  My grandchildren appreciate the responsibility of protecting these refuges. They have shown willingness to sacrifice as well.

  I thought we had survived the worst of it. We were pushed to our limits. Our lives were in jeopardy. Loved ones died. Kendra and Seth were almost lost, but in the end, they tipped the scales to save us all.

  But now they may be needed again.

  I believe I can protect them. But I have wrongly believed that before.

  Once again, frankly, I don’t know what to do. My responsibility is plain. But how far am I willing to go? How much am I able to risk?

  Is it fair to give them a choice?

  Is it even a choice, when I know what they will choose?

  Eavesdropping

  Kendra Sorenson jogged through the warm mist, damp gravel crunching underfoot, wondering if the moisture in the air was falling enough to be called rain. Sprinkles, maybe. She glanced up at the gray blur of the sky beyond the treetops, then over at a trio of fairies, each surrounded by a hazy halo of light. Nothing pattered against the hood of her windbreaker, but it was wet, as were the leafy branches on either side of the long driveway.

  This was the murkiest morning of the summer, at least since Kendra had started jogging. The fifteen-year-old typically got up just before sunrise and ran around the perimeter of the big yard three times. Each lap included running up the driveway to the gate and back. Any larger route would either take her beyond the boundaries of Fablehaven, exposing her to threats from outside the preserve, or else make her vulnerable to some of the dangers held back by the magic protecting the yard. Roaming the woods of the sanctuary was not a safe proposition.

  There had been no sunrise to watch today. The grayness had simply grown brighter as she followed her standard path, soles slipping on the wet grass.

  The gate came into view up ahead, closed as usual—wrought-iron topped with fleurs-de-lis, the only potential opening in the fence that enclosed the entire preserve. Kendra always touched the gate before turning around.

  As she approached the black bars and reached out a hand, Kendra paused. She heard a motor approaching, and tires mashing gravel.

  That was highly unusual.

  The gate to Fablehaven was well back from the main road. A distracter spell helped motorists ignore the nondescript turnoff, and you didn’t have to travel far along the driveway before finding several emphatic signs warning away trespassers.

  People did not come to Fablehaven by accident.

  And when visitors were expected, it was big news. Grandpa or Grandma Sorenson inevitably brought it up ahead of time. Often the gate was left open for the arrival.

  So who was approaching?

  Who might come to Fablehaven unannounced?

  An old friend? A spy? An enemy?

  Or somebody rea
lly lost and fairly illiterate.

  In case the visitor was an enemy, Kendra hurried off the driveway, withdrawing into the trees and crouching behind some shrubs. Leaving the driveway reduced her protection from magical threats, but trouble seldom happened this close to a protected area. The chance to hide seemed worth the small risk.

  Before long, a white sedan pulled into view and parked just outside the gate. A cowled figure emerged from the vehicle.

  Kendra had a hood herself. The weather called for covering your head. But the hooded brown robe of the stranger looked to have come from a bygone era. It deliberately concealed the face in deep shadow. This was no lost tourist. It might not even be human. This had to be somebody who knew about preserves for magical creatures.

  Was the stranger going to try to break in? The gate wasn’t visible from the house, but parking on the driveway didn’t seem very subtle.

  Then Kendra heard crunchy footsteps on the gravel from the direction of the house. She remained frozen as Grandpa Sorenson strode into view, wearing a jacket and a baseball cap. She held her breath as he walked up to the gate. It didn’t open.

  “You want to talk?” Grandpa called through the bars to the robed figure.

  “Briefly, yes,” the figure replied in a raspy voice.

  As Captain of the Knights of the Dawn, the organization that policed the magical preserves of the world, Grandpa met from time to time with various individuals who provided information. Those exchanges often happened in his office. Apparently he also sometimes met informants at the gate.

  Kendra felt guilty for eavesdropping, but it seemed more awkward to announce herself at this point. She hunkered lower behind the shrubs.

  “The situation continues to deteriorate,” the cowled figure warned. “They will most likely be needed. The boy should settle his affair with the Sisters.”

  “I understand he has the better part of a year to meet their terms,” Grandpa said.

  “Owing the Sisters is no small concern,” the figure insisted. “Who knows where he might end up over the coming months? What if circumstances prevent him from paying his debt? Why not seize the moment? For how long do you want the sword in his possession? It is powerful, but is it safe? That weapon has a history of corrupting those who wield it.”

  “I hear you,” Grandpa said. “I’ll consider advising him. Any word from Soaring Cliffs?”

  “No good tidings,” the figure responded, taking a step back. “I should depart. We’ll be in touch.”

  “Thank our mutual friend,” Grandpa said.

  “Thank him by taking the necessary action, Stan Sorenson,” the figure warned. “This could quickly become a bigger mess than the previous crisis. Prepare while you have time.”

  Grandpa glanced down the driveway back toward the house.

  “Expecting someone?” the figure asked.

  “My granddaughter is out for her morning run,” Stan said.

  “I must away,” the figure said, retreating to his car.

  Grandpa started back to the house without a wave.

  The engine started, and the vehicle rolled forward and back to make a multipoint turn. By the time the sedan passed out of sight, Kendra could no longer hear her grandfather.

  She waited in silence until the sound of the car faded to nothing.

  What had she just heard? They had to be talking about her younger brother, Seth. Kendra knew that he had made a deal with some witches to find the legendary sword Vasilis. But why was some shady outsider taking an interest? And what big problem was brewing? Whose help was needed? It sounded like the trouble could involve her and her brother.

  Kendra crept back to the road and looked down it carefully. Grandpa was no longer in sight; he had probably entered the house. She jogged back to the yard, then did part of another lap before quitting and going inside.

  She found Grandpa Sorenson in his study.

  “Good morning, Kendra,” he said.

  “Good morning,” she replied, watching him. He seemed relaxed.

  “Strange weather today,” Grandpa observed.

  “Gray and soggy. Did we have a visitor?”

  Grandpa scrunched his eyebrows. “Why would you think that?”

  Kendra weighed how much to say. “I noticed you walking down the driveway.”

  Grandpa smiled. “Just checking the gate. I do that when I get restless.”

  “Okay,” Kendra said. She didn’t want to press him. “See you later.”

  She walked from the room. It wasn’t like Grandpa to lie. Part of his job both as a caretaker of Fablehaven and as Captain of the Knights involved keeping secrets. She had no doubt that Grandpa would lie to protect a secret he thought might be harmful to others.

  It bothered Kendra to know part of a story that probably involved her and her brother. Should she tell Grandpa she had seen the stranger? Should she relate what she had heard? Should she demand to know the identity of the mysterious figure? Should she ask why she and her brother might be needed?

  Her instincts warned her that further probing would yield little fruit. Whatever the details might be, Grandpa wasn’t ready to share. And he was a professional at keeping secrets.

  Should she talk to Seth about it? Kendra doubted whether her brother could keep this quiet, especially since it involved him directly and there was more to find out. For now it might be best to worry and wonder on her own. Whatever secrets Grandpa and this stranger knew, one thing seemed clear—serious trouble was coming.

  A Promise Kept

  Seth crept deeper underground, flashlight in hand. Pale roots corkscrewed from the glistening muck of the curved ceiling. Some caves had a rich, earthy smell, full of gritty minerals. This was not one of them. Things were rotting down here. Bugs were breeding and slime was spreading. The uneven floor of the tunnel squelched beneath every step.

  The wraith beside him did little to cheer the atmosphere. Not quite alive and not quite dead, it strode silently, disturbingly still even when in motion, the darkest shape in the shadowy tunnel, radiating coldness and an unnerving aura of fear. Some would have stood immobilized in the presence of the wraith, horrified, speechless, struggling to breathe. And the wraith might have crept up to them and temporarily relieved its own iciness by draining their warmth.

  But ever since Seth had become a shadow charmer, not only could he endure the presence of the undead, he could even communicate with some of them. The surest way to survive the company of a wraith was to strike a bargain. Seth had pledged to free this wraith from the dungeon below Fablehaven and deliver it to new owners in exchange for the wraith obeying and protecting him until the transfer was complete.

  A few months prior, in order to learn the location of the storied sword Vasilis, Seth had promised to bring the Singing Sisters the sword and a wraith. He had also agreed to fulfill one additional assignment of their choice. If he failed to keep the arrangement, an enchanted knife was ready to hunt him down and kill him. So he had selected the most companionable wraith he could find and set off on a road trip to Missouri with Grandpa Sorenson and the satyrs Newel and Doren. Even with the wraith being transported in a trailer behind their vehicle, its chilly presence had kept the other passengers on edge.

  On his only previous visit to the Sisters, Seth had entered through a door in a high bluff. This time, the Sentinel who guarded access to this narrow island in the Mississippi River had informed him that return visitors should enter through a low tunnel on the other side. Neither Grandpa nor the satyrs had been allowed to join him. Since arriving on the island and finding the muddy cave, Seth and the wraith had met no living creatures.

  Vasilis dangled from a sword belt Seth had slung over one shoulder. Seth was reluctant to part with the legendary Sword of Light and Darkness. He technically had a full year to return the blade after striking the deal that let him find it, and the time was not yet up. But the we
apon had served its purpose, helping him and Kendra hold off the demons who had emerged from Zzyzx. Bracken the unicorn had suggested Seth settle his debt with the Sisters early rather than waiting until the last minute—in case something prevented him from fulfilling his promise. Grandpa had agreed and encouraged him to get it over with.

  Normally Seth adhered to a fairly rigid policy of procrastination, but the threat of a knife pursuing him across the globe intent on ending his life helped persuade him otherwise. That and the boring months since the demonic apocalypse had been averted. With his Grandpa and Grandma Sorenson running Fablehaven alongside his Grandpa and Grandma Larsen, life had been woefully uneventful. A road trip had sounded like a welcome relief.

  Giving up the wraith was no problem. Early on the drive, the shadowy form had earned the nickname Whiner. But Seth was going to miss the sword. As souvenirs went, a magic weapon was hard to beat.

  The tunnel ended at a corroded door. When Seth knocked, it produced little sound. Though scarred on the surface, the wood was thick.

  “You’re almost home,” Seth told the wraith.

  Icy words reached his mind in reply. There can be no home for me. Only unrest.

  “I felt a little like that in the car,” Seth replied, trying to keep the conversation light. “Hard to get comfy. My rear kept going numb.” The undead tended to dwell on emptiness and yearning. Get them started and it sometimes became hard to shut off. Especially this guy. “Think I knocked loud enough?” He gave the door a couple of kicks.

  It swung open to reveal a warty face with bulging yellow eyes. “Who dares rap upon this portal?”

  “Good question,” Seth said. “You really should wash it.”

  The river troll blinked in confusion. “This is a domain of perils untold.”

  “I’ve been told,” Seth said. “I came here before. The Sisters know me.”

  Leaning forward, the tall troll squinted at him. “Yes, the boy. I suppose you have a right to pass this way. You’re not expected for some time.”

  “I’m early,” Seth said. “I brought what they wanted.” He touched the hilt of the sword and gestured at the wraith.

 
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