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Dragons of the watch, p.1
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       Dragons of the Watch, p.1

           Donita K. Paul
 
Dragons of the Watch


  Praise for Donita K. Paul’s

  DragonKeeper Chronicles and Chiril Chronicles

  “The writing is crisp and the setting imaginative. This series will speak to all ages of Christian readers.”

  —Publisher’s Weekly

  “Donita K. Paul never fails to satisfy the imagination and delight the soul.… This is fantasy that truly illuminates reality.”

  —JIM DENNEY, author of the Timebenders Series

  “Donita K. Paul’s vivid imagery and startling plot twists will delight fans.”

  —KACY BARNETT-GRAMCKOW, author of the Genesis Trilogy

  “I wouldn’t expect anything less from Donita K. Paul, as she always gives us a delightful read: intriguing, challenging, and full of blessing.”

  —KATHRYN MACKEL, author of Vanished

  “Donita K. Paul possesses a unique talent for instilling deep wisdom and spiritual truth in a story that is engrossing and satisfying.… She is one of my favorite authors.”

  —HANNAH ALEXANDER, author of Silent Pledge

  “Donita K. Paul’s inventiveness never ceases to amaze. Fresh ideas for new races of people and unusual creatures keep flowing from her gifted pen.”

  —JILL ELIZABETH NELSON, author of the To Catch a Thief Series

  “Shut your eyes, hold your breath, and plunge into the unshackled imagination of Donita K. Paul.”

  —LINDA WICHMAN, author of Legend of the Emerald Rose

  OTHER BOOKS

  BY DONITA K. PAUL

  Dragons of Chiril

  (formerly The Vanishing Sculptor)

  Dragons of the Valley

  DragonSpell

  DragonQuest

  DragonKnight

  DragonFire

  DragonLight

  Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

  BY DONITA K. PAUL

  AND EVANGELINE DENMARK

  The Dragon and the Turtle

  The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari

  DRAGONS OF THE WATCH

  PUBLISHED BY WATERBROOK PRESS

  12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200

  Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921

  The characters and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental.

  Copyright © 2011 by Donita K. Paul

  Published in association with the literary agency of Alive Communications Inc., 7680 Goddard Street, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80920, www.alivecommunications.com.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Published in the United States by WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York.

  WATERBROOK and its deer colophon are registered trademarks of Random House Inc.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Paul, Donita K.

  Dragons of the watch : a novel / Donita K. Paul. — 1st ed.

  p. cm.

  eISBN: 978-0-307-72960-6

  1. Dragons—Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3616.A94D7295 2011

  813′.6—dc22

  2011020648

  v3.1

  To those readers who take the time to write encouraging words. You brighten my days and make my work worthwhile.

  Contents

  Cover

  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  Map

  1: Invitation

  2: Departure

  3: Within a Cloud

  4: A Beacon

  5: No One at Home

  6: Within the City

  7: Rumbard City

  8: Pickles and Mustard

  9: In the Library

  10: A Walk in the Night

  11: A Good Night’s Rest

  12: Meet the Dragons

  13: Sing, Sing a Song

  14: Daggarts and Danger

  15: Home, Sweet Hovel

  16: In Search of Flour and Eggs

  17: A Picture Tells a Tale

  18: Pickles and Calamity

  19: Clean Up

  20: A New Start

  21: A Diary’s Account

  22: The Bells Did It

  23: Old One and Orli

  24: Escape

  25: Discovery

  26: First Duty

  27: Sticks and Stones

  28: Good? Good!

  29: Snips and Snails

  30: A Goal, No Two

  31: Realization

  32: Morning Revelations

  33: Tuck

  34: Birth Day

  35: Where Is Porky?

  36: Rescuing Porky

  37: Gray Phantom

  38: Sighting a Wizard

  39: The Gang

  40: Run!

  41: Sanctuary

  42: Fairy Tale

  43: The Clan

  44: Keys, Keys, Keys

  45: Doors, Doors, Doors

  46: The Bottle Wizard’s Bottles

  47: A Wizard’s Way

  48: Journey to the Other Side

  49: Rendezvous

  50: The Ball

  Epilogue: In and Out of the Bottle

  Appendix (People, Glossary)

  Acknowledgments

  Mary Agius

  Kacy Barnett-Gramckow

  Evangeline Denmark

  Beth Devore

  Jani Dick

  Jim Hart

  Kathy Hurst

  Hannah Johnson

  Heidi Likens

  Shannon, Troy, and Ian McNear

  Carol Reinsma

  Rachel Selk

  Faye Spieker

  John Case Tompkins

  Beth Vogt

  Rebecca Wilber

  Ellie sat on her favorite boulder and looked Tak right in the eyes, telling him what was on her mind. “Gramps shouldn’t have taught me to read.”

  Tak responded as he usually did when he received Ellie’s confidences. He lowered his head, placing it on her knee for a rub.

  Ellie obliged her pet, stroking the white hair between his nubby horns with one hand while digging in the pocket of her homespun pinafore with the other. The mountain breeze toyed with the paper she withdrew. With difficulty, she smoothed the small poster out on her other knee. Dirty and wrinkled, it still made her heart beat a little faster.

  Royal Wedding and Coronation

  Princess Tipper

  and

  Prince Jayrus, Dragonkeeper and Paladin

  All invited to the celebration

  “All invited. But Ellicinderpart Clarenbessipawl and her goat Tak can’t come. No chaperone, no travel. Ma and Da aren’t interested. And Gramps just laughs. ‘You’ll see. You’ll see,’ is all he says. He should take me himself.”

  Her younger brother’s shrill yell came from the knoll rising out of the river to the east. “Ellie! Ellie!”

  He stood on the hill, grinning like a bear with a paw in the honey hive and his face red from running. His stubby tumanhofer body bounced with excitement. He held his fists above his head and whirled them around in circles. Something had set him off.

  She stood and hollered back. “You best be calling me by my proper name out in the open ’n’ at the top of your lungs, Gustustharinback. Ma will tan yer hide if she’s finding out you disgrace the family with such shabby care of our dignity.”

  When he saw her, he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “Yer wanted at home. Itta be good news.”

  That information didn
’t impress her. Probably a delivery of the bolt of muslin ordered, which meant she’d be cutting and dyeing lengths for making new clothes. Not exciting news at all.

  “Can it wait?” She gestured behind her to the scattered goat herd. “I’ll have to gather Tak’s clan if I’m to come home now.”

  “I’ll come help you.” Gustus charged down the hill toward the footbridge across the river.

  Ellie stared at him for a moment with her mouth hanging open. The good news had nothing to do with cloth. Her brother would never voluntarily help bring in the goats for something as mundane as new clothes. He scurried down the path, slipping some on the loose rocks. But the precarious descent did not slow him a bit. Even in the narrower patches, where exposed roots of arranndon bushes tripped careless hikers, her sturdy brother skidded downward.

  Folding the royal celebration notice into a small square, Ellie stuffed it back in her pocket. She turned away from watching her brother’s progress and nudged the goat. “Come on, Tak. You find the nannies, and I’ll find the billies.”

  Ellie went one direction and Tak another. In a few minutes, she located the fifteen goats that formed the herd. Mostly young males, these animals preferred the rockier terrain. She suspected it had to do with their perpetual game of I’m-up-highest.

  She clicked her tongue and tapped her staff on a rock. Their heads rose as if all attached to the same string, though they didn’t come right away. Each one chewed what was in his mouth and casually left his place one by one. Taking a serene amble down the hillside, they passed her, heading toward the bridge and home.

  When the last one clomped by, Ellie rested her staff on her shoulder and followed. Tak already had the nannies plodding along the bank toward the footbridge. Gustustharinback trailed the nannies and carried the smallest of the baby goats in his arms.

  He shouted when he caught sight of his sister. “Hurry! Aunt and Uncle Blamenyellomont are at the house. I can’t tell you the surprise, and I’m gonna burst with keeping my tongue from waggin’ and you from knowin’.”

  She tapped her staff on the rock beneath her feet. The billies scampered before her, picking up her impatience and gratefully heading for home. Even after eating all day, they appreciated the handfuls of button grain they got from the farmer’s younger children.

  With the goat hoofs pounding on the wooden bridge, Ellie couldn’t hear or be heard. So she waited until she’d caught up with her brother on the other side.

  “What’s with all the falderal, Gustus?”

  She watched as he forced a glare onto his face, erasing the impudent grin he’d been wearing. “You are to call me by my proper name if I have to call you by yours.”

  “There’s a difference between shouting ‘Ellie’ and speaking ‘Gustus’ quietly.” She grabbed his arm. “Now tell me, or I’ll toss you into the river.”

  He pressed his lips together and gave her his most obstinate glower. The corners of his lips twitched, and she knew he wanted to laugh. She let go. She couldn’t really dunk him while he carried the small kid.

  “Why are our aunt and uncle here?”

  “Can’t tell you that either. But they’s only stopping, not staying. We’d better hurry.”

  Ellie lost Gustustharinback’s help as soon as they came in sight of the pens. He scuttled down the last hill and opened the gate but then ran through the goat barn, across the yard, and into the house.

  The herd followed the leader through the opening and took up different places to observe their world. Ellie and Gustus had put many odd things within the goat pen for the animals to climb on. Old wooden benches, barrels, a huge thick branch they had pulled with the donkey’s help, and crates littered the ground. The goats enjoyed scrambling up, over, and around the obstacles.

  Tak stayed at Ellie’s side as she put water in the trough and fastened the barn door securely open so the animals could come in if they wanted. He followed her out the door on the other side of the barn and waited patiently while she latched it shut.

  Entering the back door so she could wash before meeting their visitors, Ellie noticed that the kitchen showed signs of serving tea. Her mother must have prepared refreshments to carry into the common room. Through the pantry door, she could see empty spots on the shelves, which meant the good china pot and the blue glass dishes were being used.

  Warm water sat in a tub in the sink, and she used that to wash her face and hands. She pulled the scarf off her head, gathered her long, curly black locks into a ponytail and used the scarf to tie it in place. Wisps of hair immediately escaped and framed her tanned face. She washed her face again as if she could rid herself of the look of a farm girl. Hopefully Aunt Tiffenbeth wouldn’t make that tired old comment: “Your blue eyes would be more attractive if you scrubbed away some of that mud you use for face cream.”

  Voices from the family’s conversation drifted through the partially open door. Aunt Tiffenbeth quarreled with Ellie’s father.

  “Brother, you are wrong in this. Ellicinderpart is your eldest child and way past the age to be in the village looking for a husband.”

  “If there’s a man good enough for her, he can just come courting here.” Her father’s voice rumbled in the wood-paneled room, and Ellie did not even have to strain to hear him. She stepped closer to the door in order not to miss a single word her aunt spoke.

  “You are the most vexing man. That is not going to happen. It isn’t the way of things, and you know it. You’re selfish and your mind is rootbound.”

  Only his older sister could get away with talking like that to Ellie’s father. She probably ought to go in before the discussion escalated to verbal warfare. She finished wiping her hands and draped the towel over one of the kitchen chairs around the square table.

  “The girl is needed here.”

  “The young woman is your unpaid servant.”

  “She has obligations to her family. None of the other children are old enough to take over her chores.”

  “And it’s not her fault five years passed before you begat another child. She should not be punished for Boscamon’s whim. Besides, Letterimdebomm is quite old enough to take over the goats and the dressmaking.”

  Her father said nothing. Ellie held her breath. Would she get to go live in the village, get a job, earn her keep, and possibly attract the attention of some young man?

  She heard the rustling of a skirt. “Would you like another cake, Tiffenbeth? Letterimdebomm made them just yesterday afternoon.” Her mother, trying to divert the tension between brother and sister.

  Ellie knew it was pointless. Uncle Stemikenjon cleared his throat. Her father never cleared his throat before he spoke what was on his mind. He just blurted it out.

  “I’ll have another piece,” said Uncle Stemikenjon.

  “And—,” said Aunt Tiffenbeth.

  Ellie flinched. Her aunt was going to ruin it. Her father’s silence might mean he was contemplating what she had said. But if her aunt pushed too hard, he’d turn stubborn.

  “—all your children can read,” continued Aunt Tiffenbeth.

  “That’s not my doing.”

  Ellie could imagine her father tossing a glare in her gramps’s direction. The old man would smile that toothless grin and keep stroking the cat, whichever cat happened to be on his lap. He couldn’t sit down without attracting at least one.

  “Reading will be a great asset in the village,” said Aunt Tiffenbeth. “It’s only up here in these hills where it’s not customary to teach all the children to read.”

  “There’s no sense in taking the time to teach them all. One or two could be the readers and that could be their contribution to the family. Ridiculous waste of time to teach them all.”

  From behind, Ellie heard the unmistakable sound of Tak’s footsteps on the wooden floor. Before she could turn, she felt the hard butt of his head on her backside.

  She whirled and shook a finger at him. She spoke as forcefully as she could in a whisper. “Tak! You know you aren’t allowed in
here. Go back outside.”

  Ellie followed Tak as he made his docile retreat, but she watched scornfully the arrogant sway of his hips and the self-satisfied bounce of his head. His white coat gleamed as he entered the sunlight. Once he’d tromped down the stairs, she shut the door and latched it. That goat was too cunning.

  Ellie straightened her shoulders and passed through the kitchen once more. With fingers on the doorknob, she drew the door toward her and stopped.

  “I suppose she can go.”

  “Da!” She rushed into the room and flung her arms around him. “I’m going to the village?”

  “Nay, not that. Yer going with your aunt to Ragar, to see the coronation and celebrate the wedding.”

  Ellie tried to breathe, but her lungs had expelled all the air from within and seemed paralyzed. She pushed out of her father’s arms and looked around at the faces that stared at her. Gramps grinned. Her mother’s face wrinkled in concern. Aunt Tiffenbeth arched eyebrows above twinkling eyes. Uncle winked. Her seven smaller siblings sat around the room with hands folded primly in their laps but eyes dancing with excitement.

  Ellie made a strangled attempt to speak.

  Her father thumped her back. “Breathe, you silly girl. You can’t go anywhere if you expire on the spot.”

  Three days later, Ellicinderpart knew for sure that the world was a beautiful place and her aunt and uncle were the most generous of tumanhofers. She sat in the second seat of their carriage with Aunt Tiffenbeth and gazed out the window. She wore a new dress her aunt had purchased in town, part of her new wardrobe. The coachman had strapped two carpetbags full of new things to the roof of their vehicle. Her uncle sat across from them with his face hidden in a book.

  A warm glow spread through Ellie as she thought of the two gowns she’d carefully packed in the larger carpetbag the night before. She’d tried them on one more time and admired the dresses in her aunt’s tall mirror. She had never thought to own one gown so lovely, let alone two. One for the coronation ball and one for the wedding reception.

 
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