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       The Dragons of Wayward Crescent: Glade, p.1

           Chris D'Lacey
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The Dragons of Wayward Crescent: Glade


  338 Euston Road, London NW1 3BH

  Orchard Books Australia

  Level 17/207 Kent Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

  First published in 2009 by Orchard Books

  This ebook edition published in 2011

  First paperback publication in 2010

  ISBN 978 1 40831 539 2

  Text © Chris d’Lacey 2009

  Illustrations © Adam Stower 2009

  The rights of Chris d’Lacey to be identified as the author and Adam Stower to be identified as the illustrator of this work have been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

  All rights reserved.

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

  Orchard Books is a division of Hachette Children’s Books,

  an Hachette UK company.

  For Lydia

  Chapter 1

  “Gosh, it’s chilly today,” Elizabeth Pennykettle said, stamping her feet and blowing on the ends of her fingerless gloves. “Still, these spring weekends are always good for business. How are we doing, Lucy?”

  Liz’s ten-year-old daughter looked around the covered market stalls. She’d seen more elephants at a water hole than people shopping today. She looked at the rows of clay dragons on her mother’s stall then glanced at the open cash tin, which was on an upturned fruit crate beside her. There was a ten-pound note and some coins in it. “We’ve sold two,” she said glumly.

  “Well, that’s two better than none at all,” said Liz.

  Lucy sighed and pulled on the braids of her bobble hat. She was about to reply when the clock in the tower of the library building gave out three distinct bongs. Anyone who didn’t live in the market town of Scrubbley would have thought this rather odd, for it was clearly about eleven o’clock in the morning. But to Lucy, who not only knew the whole sequence of bongs but the reason why the clock always chimed incorrectly, it was no surprise at all. It even helped reinforce what she’d been planning to say: “Mum, we’ve been standing here for over an hour. I hate doing the market on freezing cold days. My toes are cold. And I think I’ve got chilblains – on my knees!”

  “Well, I’m sorry, but I have to earn a living,” Liz said. “We have to eat and pay the bills like anyone else. Making and selling clay dragons is what I do. If you can think of a better job for me, speak up.” With that, she leaned across the stall and rearranged a number of her spiky green creations, moving some that had been at the back much closer to the front and placing others in little clusters, on stands.

  Another spill of cold air ran though the marketplace, flapping the bunting on the roofs of the stalls. Lucy shivered and let her hands drift towards a female dragon in the corner of the table nearest her. It was sitting up on its back legs and tail as most of the Pennykettle dragons did. Nearly all of Liz’s dragons were characterised in some way. They carried cricket bats or wore a chef’s hat, for instance. The dragon nearest Lucy was slightly different. It had a scarf of ivy leaves around its neck. In truth, it was rather an ordinary-looking sculpture. Yet it was the most special of any on the stall. For this pretty little creature was only acting like a piece of solid clay, the way it had been taught to do in human company. But at any given moment it could soften its scales, lift its wings, make fire in the back of its throat and fly. It was real and barely three weeks old. Its name was Glade.

  Lucy stretched the sleeve of her coat from her wrist and held the gap in front of Glade’s snout. Then she made a strange kind of grunting sound, which to most people would have sounded like she had a bad cold. Actually, it was an ancient language called dragontongue, which Lucy and her mother had been able to speak since birth. To Glade’s ears the grunt translated as Hrrr, which could be interpreted in any number of ways, but which Glade understood to mean, “Blow, will you?”

  With a quick snuffle, Glade snorted a blast of air, warming Lucy’s forearm instantly.

  “Hey,” said Liz, catching sight of what was happening. “What have I told you about using the special dragons in public?” She looked around quickly to check that no one was watching the stall. The market trader next to them was bellowing out special offers on his tapestry kits. Fortunately, he was drawing most people’s attention.

  “You said we could bring Glade here,” Lucy argued.

  “I didn’t say we could show the world our secrets, did I?”

  Lucy folded her arms. “Then why have we brought her?” This, Lucy thought, was a fair argument. She had lived with these dragons all her life. She knew the rules. And all the secrets. (Well, nearly all the secrets.) Her mother made dragons that came alive (sometimes). To achieve this, Liz used the powers of a magical snowball that never melted in her hands but would turn to water inside a dragon’s snout. From this water the dragon would create its life spirit, or ‘fire tear’. The exact process was a mystery, even to Lucy, but she did know that special dragons had to be protected from prying eyes, which was why it was so unusual for a special one to leave their house in Wayward Crescent. “Well?” Lucy pressed.

  Liz ran her fingers along Glade’s spine. “She wanted to come.”

  Lucy wrinkled her nose. “Why?”

  There was a plain white tablecloth draped over the stall. Liz picked up the hem and let it run through her fingers. “Dragons are very sensitive. I think she believes her destiny is here.”

  “On the market?” That didn’t make sense to Lucy at all. “But… you make them to help us, in the house.”

  “True,” Liz said. “But lately I’ve been thinking about how lucky we are to have our dragons and how good it would be if we could share them with other people sometimes.”

  Lucy shifted closer and whispered like a spy. “Mum, if we share them, people will know they’re real. Then scientists will come to the house and take away the snowball and do experiments on it. They’d treat us like…”

  “Aliens. Yes, I know,” Liz said, and there was suddenly a twinkle of intense bright violet at the centre of her normally placid green eyes. “All the same, I have to find out why Glade wants to be here. Anyway, shush, we’ll talk about this later. I think we’ve got customers.”

  Lucy looked up to see an enthusiastic young girl in a duffel coat approaching. She was dragging along a slightly breathless woman. “Mum, look! Pottery dragons! Can I have one? Please?”

  The mother drew up to the stall. She adjusted the strap of her bag and said a quiet hello to Liz and Lucy. “Gosh, they’re beautiful. Did you make them yourself?”

  “In a studio, in my house,” Liz replied.

  Lucy said proudly, “It’s called the Dragons’ Den.”

  The woman smiled and glanced at a couple of price tags. “All right, Melanie, you can have one. How about this ballerina one, here?” She pointed at a dragon in a pale pink tutu.

  The girl put a finger to her lip and shook her head.

  “These are very popular,” said Liz, stroking a baby emerging from its egg.

  The girl’s eyes continued to scan the sculptures. “I like that one…” she said, pointing to a dragon that was playing a recorder.

  “Oh, yes,” laughed her mum. “Maybe it could help you with your music lessons?”

  The girl nodded. “But I really want that one,” she said and pointed firmly at Glade.

  Lucy made a sound as if she’d swallowed a fly.

  “Why that one?” asked Liz.

  The girl thought for a moment. “I like her. She’s got kind eyes.”

  Chapter 2

  “Glade’s not for sale,” Lucy said with a start.

p; “Glade? That’s a lovely name,” said the mother.

  “I can’t have her?” asked the girl. Her young face crumpled up in disappointment.

  Lucy picked Glade up as if to lay claim to her. But Liz immediately took her out of Lucy’s hands. “What Lucy means is, we don’t have a gift box for this one. So strictly speaking she’s not available.”

  “Oh, we don’t mind about a box, do we, Mel?” Melanie’s mother said with an understanding smile.

  “No,” said Melanie. “Can I hold her?”

  Liz smiled and handed Glade over.

  Lucy felt as if her lungs had turned to stone. She watched Melanie hold the dragon close to her heart, cradling Glade as if she were a baby.

  “I’d be happy to pay the full price,” said Melanie’s mother, “box or no box.” She reached into her bag and unclipped her purse.

  Liz raised a hand and waited till the woman’s gaze met hers. Lucy curled her fingers in hope. She could see that Liz’s eyes were changing to violet. Liz was going to use her magical powers to make the woman change her mind.

  But in fact Liz said, “I really think you ought to have a box. These dragons are much more collectable with them. Besides, I like to paint the buyer’s name – Melanie, isn’t it? – on the tail. You do understand, don’t you?”

  Like a robot, the woman closed her purse. “Erm, yes,” she said dizzily. “That would be lovely… I think.”

  That was far too chancy for Lucy. She bit her lip and stared like a demon at the girl, trying to turn her own eyes violet, hoping that she might bend Melanie’s will and persuade her to give Glade back. To her dismay, the magic only half-worked. The girl returned Glade to the stall, but kept her hands cupped around her wings.

  “So, should we come back next week?” asked her mother.

  “Where do you live?” asked Liz.

  “Orchid Close. Number 7.”

  “Orchid Close?” gasped Lucy. That was the road next to Wayward Crescent.

  “You know it?”

  “We’re practically neighbours,” said Liz. She leaned forward and picked Glade up. “We’ll take the dragon for now. I’ll sort out a box and we’ll pop round…tomorrow, perhaps?”

  “Come for tea,” the woman said.

  “Thank you,” said Liz. “That’s very kind.” She glanced at Melanie, who seemed a little uncertain.

  “Mum, shouldn’t we tell them about…?”

  “Oh, yes,” said her mum, looking anxious. “Melanie’s grandad lives with us. He’s… Well, he can be a little, erm, eccentric.”

  “What does that mean?” asked Lucy.

  Her mother touched Glade’s ears.

  Lucy noticed that the dragon had pricked them slightly. Liz said, “Well, we’ll find out, won’t we?”

  Melanie’s mother parted her lips. She looked grateful for Liz’s kind response. “Shall we say four o’clock?”

  “We’ll be there, on the dot,” said Liz.

  And with that, they waved Melanie and her mother goodbye.

  Lucy waited until they were well out of earshot then said from the side of her mouth, “Good plan, Mum. Brilliant idea.”

  “Plan?” said Liz.

  “You’re going to take Glade home and make a replica, aren’t you? You’re going to take that round instead.”

  Liz shook her head. “I’d never get a replica glazed in time. We need to take Glade home and prepare her, though.”

  “What? You’re really going to sell her? You’re going to paint her tail and hand her over?”

  Liz thought for a moment. “Well, she will be going to Melanie’s house, but I don’t think she’s going to be Melanie’s dragon.” She lifted Glade from the tablecloth and turned her round. “Show Lucy what you just showed me.”

  Glade flicked her tail straight then rearranged the scales until Lucy could clearly see a word spelled out.

  “There. What do you make of that?” asked Liz.

  Lucy gripped the edge of the stall. This was getting worse. The word that Glade had made was not ‘Melanie’.

  It was ‘Grandad’.

  Chapter 3

  All the way home, Lucy thought about the description of Melanie’s grandad. Yet it was only when they stepped into the hall at Wayward Crescent that she thought to ask again, “Mum, what exactly does ‘eccentric’ mean?”

  “Look it up,” said Liz. “If you want to find out anything in this world you should consult a good book. In this case, the dictionary.”

  Lucy stopped in the hall by the front-room door. She looked in, frowning at the small stack of books in the alcove. The dictionary was heavy and high up – and boring. She chewed her lip a moment then carried Glade through to the kitchen and put her down on the table, all the while calling out for a dragon named Gruffen to join them.

  Gruffen came whizzing in. He was a guard dragon by trade, though not a very good one. When Gruffen had been made, he’d come with a book of ‘instructions’, which was really a sort of alphabetical guide to being a dragon. Lucy, being a human, and a lazy one at that, decided to ask him to look up ‘eccentric’, hoping he’d find an answer for her.

  Like any Pennykettle dragon, Gruffen did his best to help. It was a difficult word, though, and he had to ask Lucy to spell it.

  Spelling. Not Lucy’s best subject at school. “E, G, G, erm, S, erm, N…TRICK,” she said.

  Gruffen blew some dust off his book and flipped through it. Not surprisingly, the word wasn’t there, for it had nothing whatsoever to do with dragons (not to mention the fact that Lucy had hopelessly misspelled it). He did find ‘Eggs’, though. “Would that be any good?” he hurred.

  “Useless,” Lucy tutted, flopping down into a chair.

  Gruffen read the entry to himself, anyway. It looked quite interesting to him. Eggs, it said. Ancient means of dragon birth and sometimes of human-like children, touched by the spark of a dragon. Hmm. He looked thoughtfully at Lucy and closed the book.

  Just then, an elderly gentleman appeared at the back door. His bony knuckle rapped the glass. Gruffen, Glade and the listening dragon that always sat on top of the fridge immediately adopted their solid form.

  Lucy gave a thin groan. The caller was their annoying next-door neighbour, Henry Bacon. “Mum, Count Dracula’s arrived!”

  “What?” her mum shouted, distantly.

  “There’s an old grey vampire on our threshold,” Lucy said (quietly, to herself). That was how Mr Bacon looked to her, anyway. She opened the door and invited him in.

  “Your mother home, child?”

  Mr Bacon always spoke to Lucy like this. One day she was determined to respond in similar fashion saying, “Yes, she’s upstairs, old man.” On this occasion, however, she was quite polite – but then she did have a reason. Henry was a librarian. He knew about words. So Lucy put on her best little-girl voice and said, “Erm, yes, Mum’s home. Would you like a cup of tea?”

  Unnerved by this uncommonly warm reception, Henry sat down and mumbled, “Very well. One sugar – and not too much milk.”

  Lucy marched to the sink and filled the kettle. “Mr Bacon, what does ‘eggsntrick’ mean?”

  “Eccentric,” he tutted. “It’s spelled with a double ‘c’, child.”

  Lucy ground her teeth. She thought, Shall I put a squirt of washing-up liquid in his tea? Better not. “Does it mean clever?”

  “No. It means ‘odd’ or ‘peculiar’. Eccentric people are usually considered to be slightly barmy.”

  “Barmy?!” Lucy gasped. “You mean, like—”

  ‘You’, she was about to say, had Liz not walked in and cut her off. “Good. I see Lucy’s put the kettle on. What can we do for you, Henry?”

  “Is that ivy?” he asked, pointing at the leaves around Glade’s neck.

  “Yes,” Liz said. “It suits her, don’t you think?”

  “Can’t bear the stuff,” said Henry. “Smothers your brickwork and gets under your roof. It’s in my shed, Mrs P, digging its ghastly shoots between my slates. Coming from a
branch on your side, I think. Need your permission to hack it all back.”

  Before Liz could comment, Lucy grabbed her by the wrist and turned her away. “Mu-um, you’d better look at Glade,” she hissed.

  Liz glanced back. The ivy around Glade’s neck was glowing a faint, but definite, fiery red. And she had softened her tail just enough to flick it, temperamentally, from side to side.

  Henry, being an aged human, and disbelieving of any form of movement in a ‘clay’ sculpture, did not see the tail, but he had seen the change in colour of the ivy.

  “Good Lord,” he said. “That thing’s glowing.”

  Lucy breathed in slowly. Glade wasn’t going to like being called a ‘thing’. She could already see the dragon’s youthful claws emerging. And was that a hint of smoke in her nostrils?

  Liz was swift to react. She scooped Glade up and said to Henry, “Her ivy has been dusted with mood paint.”

  “What?” he blustered.

  “She changes colour according to your mood. Red for anger. You really ought to calm down, Henry.”

  “Nonsense. Let me look at it again,” he said.

  “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Lucy, squeezing the words from the side of her mouth.

  Liz shrugged and held Glade close to Henry’s face.

  “Hmm,” he went, and tinked her nose with his fingernail.

  In a move so fast that Henry felt nothing but a mild tickle, Glade softened her paws and put two claws up his hairy nostrils. Immediately, Henry’s nose hairs began to grow.

  And grow.

  And grow.

  And grow.

  And, well, grow.

  “What the—? What’s happening?” he cried, as the hairs began to reach the bottom of his chin. Some were even curling up towards his ears. He jumped up and glanced in the kitchen mirror. “Arrgh! I’ve turned into a walrus!” And before anyone could speak he’d dashed out of the kitchen and was hurtling back towards his own house.

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