Voyagers of the silver s.., p.1
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       Voyagers of the Silver Sand, p.1

           Tony Abbott
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Voyagers of the Silver Sand


  Title Page

  Dedication

  1: The Hidden Stairs

  2: City out of the Clouds

  3: Deserts of the Past

  4: The Dragon’s Dune of Night

  5: The First Wizard

  6: Song of the Ninns

  7: The Luck of the Voyagers

  8: The Rat-faced Snitchers of Zoop

  9: The Domed City

  10: Midnight on the Silver Sand

  11: Wonderful Things!

  12: Beyond the Clouds

  The Adventure Continues …

  Also Available

  Copyright

  BLAM! The earth exploded in front of Eric Hinkle and sent him tumbling down a riverbank into his friends. “Oof! Sorry!”

  “Hey, my foot!” said Neal Kroger, sliding down behind him.

  “Your foot! How about my knee?” said Julie Rubin, crawling out from beneath them both.

  “How about we stop complaining and run?” said Princess Keeah. “The beasts are coming!”

  “And getting closer all the time,” chirped Max, the spider troll. “Look!”

  His head aching from the explosion, Eric peeked over the top of the riverbank and saw an army of furry, gray, lion-shaped beasts charging across the plains toward them. Their eyes blazed bright red.

  They were the beasts of Emperor Ko.

  “Man,” Eric grumbled. “It’s almost as if they don’t like us or something.”

  “No kidding!” said Keeah. “But if we keep running, maybe we can hold out until my parents and Khan find us. Let’s move!”

  Right. Keeah’s parents, King Zello and Queen Relna, and Khan, leader of the purple, pillow-shaped Lumpies, had been with the kids not too long ago. They’d all been chasing Ko’s evil floating palace when they were attacked. The king and queen were driven away, and now the kids were trapped at the river.

  “I hope this works,” said Julie.

  “Cross your fingers, everyone!” said Neal.

  As the five friends scuttled quickly down the river, Eric’s mind raced over everything that had happened in the last hour.

  He was in Droon, of course. Where else would he, his friends, a wizard princess, and a spider troll be running from an army of nasty, red-eyed beasts?

  Splashhh! The water exploded behind them.

  “They know where we are!” squeaked Max, his orange hair standing straight up. “Hurry!”

  Droon was the magical world Eric, Julie, and Neal had discovered one day in his basement. Ever since they had descended a mysterious rainbow-colored staircase, they’d had one fabulous adventure after another.

  It was on their very first visit to Droon that they met Keeah, a young wizard just learning her powers. Along with her friend Max and the great old wizard Galen, Keeah had worked hard to keep Droon free.

  “Change of plan!” she said, scrambling behind an outcropping of rock. “We’ll have to make a stand here.” She turned and gave Eric a little smile. “Time to uncross those fingers, pal!”

  Eric looked at his fingers.

  Yes, that was part of the adventure, too. Since coming to Droon, Eric had developed his own wizard powers. He could cast spells, shoot powerful sparks from his fingertips, read mysterious old languages, and even have visions of the future.

  So far, having powers had been pretty cool.

  Julie had gained some powers, too. She had developed the ability to fly and to alter her shape. Meanwhile, Neal was still waiting and hoping for powers of his own. But together all three friends had helped Keeah fight the bad guys time and time again.

  For most of that time, the worst bad guy was a sorcerer named Lord Sparr. Since the beginning, he had struggled against Keeah and her friends to take control of Droon. But when Sparr used his Three Powers to wake up his former master, Emperor Ko, he accidentally turned himself back into a boy.

  Sparr was now helping them battle Ko!

  That had been going pretty well. Until the impossible happened.

  Crouching behind the rock, Eric looked at his watch. The impossible had happened exactly one hour and seven minutes ago.

  His blood ran cold when he thought about it.

  At the end of their last adventure, young Sparr had fled Ko and escaped on a magical river that flowed all the way up to Eric’s town in the Upper World.

  Unfortunately, Ko’s second-in-command, an evil dragon named Gethwing, had chased right after Sparr. When the kids raced to the rainbow stairs to follow them, Ko had uttered a terrible curse.

  “Selat-panoth-ra-ka-Saba!”

  A few moments later, the staircase wobbled.

  It sizzled.

  It fizzled.

  And then it vanished.

  Vanished!

  Eric couldn’t believe it. No one could believe it. But there was nothing they could do. The rainbow stairs were the only path between the Upper World and Droon. Even though Sparr and Gethwing were in the Upper World, the kids were trapped in Droon. They couldn’t return home until the stairs returned. If they returned.

  My parents! he thought. My house! My town!

  Luckily, no time passed at home while the kids were in Droon. So everything would stay the way they left it. At least Eric hoped so.

  “Incoming fireball,” cried Neal. “Duck!”

  BLAMMM! A bolt of light exploded in front of them, and Eric fell back to the ground.

  “Oww, my head! Keeah! Julie? Guys —”

  They didn’t answer.

  Blinking his eyes and rubbing his nose, he sat up and looked around.

  “What —” he whispered.

  He wasn’t by the riverbank anymore. His friends were gone. So was the daylight. He was sitting on dark, wet ground in the middle of a starless, moonless night.

  Eric staggered to his feet. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he began to make out the shapes of giant boulders and broken rocks strewn all around.

  “This isn’t good,” he said. “Where am I?”

  A mass of twisted trees loomed on his right, while on his left a flaming stump bloomed with dense smoke. Far away, he could see the dim outlines of a seacoast with wild black waves crashing.

  Closing his eyes, Eric rubbed his forehead.

  Then he remembered the explosion.

  And it all made sense.

  “Of course! I’m having a vision. I hit my head and now I’m seeing … the Dark Lands!”

  The Dark Lands.

  Smelly, smoky, always foggy, always scary, the Dark Lands had been the center of evil in Droon for centuries.

  Waving the smoke away, he turned, stumbled over a low stump, and nearly fell again. “The Dark Lands! What a mess! How can anybody live like this?”

  “You tell me!” hissed a sudden voice.

  Eric whirled around.

  Out of the haze stepped an eight-foot-tall, black-scaled dragon with four sharp wings jutting up from its shoulders. Raising its massive head, the dragon grinned at him.

  Eric stepped back. “Gethwing?”

  “The one and only!” said the moon dragon.

  Eric narrowed his eyes. “Wait. My visions tell the future. You’re supposed to be in my world. Why are you back here in the Dark Lands —”

  Drool from the dragon’s fangs hissed as it struck the ground. “The Dark Lands? Oh, no, no, no. Take another look, Wizard Boy….”

  “What?” Eric turned completely around, then back again. He saw a forest, a field, a dip in the land, and a coast in the distance.

  Eric’s head hurt again suddenly.

  Closing his eyes, he blinked them open and squinted more carefully this time.

  He took several steps forward through the rocks. Then he turned, looked left, then right, stumbled another few steps, and sto
pped.

  His heart thudded in his chest.

  “Impossible,” he said.

  But there was no mistaking it. He was standing just a few feet away from … from where his house was supposed to be!

  From where it should have been.

  From where it would have been. Unless …

  The sound of his blood thundered in his ears. “But my parents? My town? What did you do?”

  Gethwing grinned. “I huffed and I puffed and, well, you know the rest.”

  Eric’s fingertips sprinkled hot silver sparks. “This can’t be true. No way. If this is the future, I can change it. And I’m going to change it right now. I’m going to get rid of you!”

  “But this is a vision. You can’t hurt me,” said the dragon. “Besides, I’m up here in your world, and you’re really down there in Droon. You can’t be in two places at once —”

  “No, no, no!”

  Just as Eric raised his sparking hands …

  … BLAMMM! The air exploded again, and he was flat on his back once more.

  When he opened his eyes, it was day again, and his friends were dragging him behind the large rock.

  “Dude, I did say, ‘Duck,’ ” said Neal. “You nearly got fried.”

  He blinked. “Uh … wow!”

  “Is your head okay?” asked Keeah.

  “You took a nasty tumble!” chirped Max.

  Eric gazed at his friends, then squinted down the river. The lions were still charging, sending blazing beams from their eyes.

  Blam! Blammm!

  “Whoa, guys,” he said. “I had a vision. I was in the Upper World, only there was nothing left. Gethwing had destroyed it all!”

  Blam! Chunks of rock fell on the kids.

  “If it was only a vision,” said Julie, “it hasn’t happened yet. But these beasts are here right now, and you have to blast back —”

  Suddenly, they heard the sound of hooves splashing up the river behind them. A trio of shaggy white pilkas was coming up fast.

  “Reinforcements!” cried Neal. “Yay!”

  Queen Relna, King Zello, and Khan were galloping at the head of an enormous troop of blue-clad, bow-toting soldiers.

  “Archers — fire!” boomed Zello.

  From their saddles, the soldiers shot a sizzling barrage of arrows at the gray lions.

  Thwink-thwink-thwink! The arrows formed a wall in front of the beasts, halting their attack.

  “Mother, Father,” said Keeah, running to them. “You came just in time —”

  “We hope we’re in time,” said Relna. She hopped down from her pilka and opened her saddlebag. “While we were chasing Ko, a messenger came to us from the Guardians. They have been searching for you for the last hour.”

  “Bodo and Vasa?” asked Julie.

  The two Guardians lived in the flying city of Ro, which soared over Droon invisibly, except for one day a year, when it landed in the Kalahar Valley.

  Khan nodded. “They asked you to come at once. The city is landing today. The Guardians know how to restore the staircase —”

  “They do?” gasped Eric. “Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”

  The archers rode up the embankment and fired yet another round of arrows. Howling, the beasts retreated even farther.

  “We’ll send these lions packing, then meet you in Ro,” said Zello. “Before we lost sight of the emperor’s floating palace, he was heading for Ro, too. Relna?”

  The queen quickly took four bundles from her backpack. In a twinkling, each bundle unwrapped itself into a colorful little carpet.

  Keeah beamed. “Pasha’s Mini-Speeders. They’re very fast. Faster than fast, in fact!”

  “I call the one with stars,” said Neal, plopping onto a bright little rug.

  “Max, you can come with me,” said Julie.

  “Gladly,” he said. “Keeah, lead the way!”

  Eric jumped onto a small maroon rug. “If there’s any way to bring back the staircase, we have to do it,” he said. “We need to get home before my vision becomes real.”

  “We will,” Keeah vowed.

  “Beware of wingsnakes,” said Khan. “Ko’s fiery snakes are always first to attack!”

  “We’ll watch out,” said Julie. “Carpets, go!”

  Whoosh! The magic carpets lifted up from the riverbank, wobbled for a second, then shot away across the sky.

  True to their name, Pasha’s carpets flew faster than fast. Within minutes, the five friends had spotted a range of purple hills.

  “Kalahar Valley just ahead,” chirped Max. “Look how its magical diamonds glitter.”

  The city of Ro needed the diamonds to keep it flying and to protect its Tower of Memory, where the history of Droon was written.

  “And look behind us,” said Julie, as a dark swarm took shape in the sky behind them.

  “Wingsnakes!” said Keeah.

  The flying snakes of Emperor Ko had spiky tails and wings of flame, and they announced themselves with high-pitched shrieks. Eeeeee!

  “Bandits at six o’clock!” cried Neal, jerking around as the swarm swept closer. “And at two-thirty. Also about twenty to four —”

  “They’re everywhere!” shouted Max.

  “Outrun them,” said Keeah. “After me!”

  Zip! Whoosh! Yanking her carpet this way and that, the princess led the small group up and around the hills surrounding the vast Kalahar Valley.

  The wingsnakes tried to keep up, but the kids weaved Pasha’s carpets in and out of the hills too quickly. Shrieking one last time, the beasts drifted back into the hills.

  “Ha-ha,” said Neal. “That’ll show them.”

  “And not a minute too soon,” said Eric. “The flying city is coming. There. Look!”

  At first, all they saw was a blur in the air. Then it seemed as if someone was moving a piece of cloudy glass across the sky. Finally, the air thickened, a high wall formed, and dozens of onion-shaped domes appeared.

  Overshadowing everything was the giant Tower of Memory, a coiling mass of stone rising from the middle of a great palace.

  “Let’s get down there,” said Julie, “before those overgrown worms come back.”

  Fwoosh! One after the other, the carpets descended into the city. Sweeping over domes and under archways, the friends finally glided down to the ground in front of the palace.

  At once, the main courtyard filled with squat, bright-suited, red-haired Rovians.

  “Princess Keeah and friends!” chirped one creature in a yellow helmet. “Vasa and Bodo await you in the engine room. Everyone else, battle stations. Ko is coming! Pip-pop-pip!”

  As the Rovians pipped and popped and rushed into action, Keeah leaped from her carpet and charged up the steps. “Vasa and Bodo need our help. Let’s move it.”

  Eric raced right behind her. They need our help? he thought. I think we need their help, too!

  Drawn by terrible clanking and whirring sounds, the five friends hurried through corridors and up and down stairs until they came to a large door at the end of a long hallway. Noise thundered from inside.

  “Lots of banging and pounding,” said Neal.

  “Sounds like the engine room,” said Julie.

  Opening the door, they entered a chamber of spinning gears and puffing smokestacks. Two tall lizards wearing green robes were busily working an array of giant controls.

  Keeah ran over to them. “Bodo, Vasa, we came as soon as we could!”

  Vasa, the shorter of the two Guardians, turned his great head. “Behold our diamond motor!” he shouted over the machine’s roar. “We can’t fly invisibly without diamonds!”

  “And we can’t do anything at all if Ko decides to move in!” said his fellow Guardian. Bodo pushed a pair of tiny glasses up on his big snout and whispered to a tiny Rovian nearby.

  The creature listened intently, then tugged on a big lever. At once, the floor quaked.

  “Good,” said Bodo, waving to a far door. “Our flight plan will buy us some time before
Ko comes. Now, on to important matters. Children, to the Tower! Quickly!”

  Without another word, the two Guardians swept through a series of narrow halls. The kids hurried after them. After many turns, they passed under a tall arch and into the Tower of Memory.

  The moment they entered the circular structure, Eric felt his fingers tingle. He knew that on the Tower stones were written stories about everything that had ever happened in Droon. Seeing his and his friends’ names, he remembered the stories as if they had happened yesterday. The time they battled the hawk bandits of Tarkoom. The voyage they took on Keeah’s ship, the Jaffa Wind. And who could forget the sleeping giant of Goll?

  “The whole history of Droon is here,” he said. “This Tower seems so alive.”

  “It sort of is,” said Neal, squinting to the top. “Quill is still writing stuff, isn’t he?”

  Vasa smiled. “And he’s been busy lately!”

  Quill was the magical feather pen who had written Droon’s history on the stones. Even now, the pen could be heard scratching away at the very top of the Tower.

  “It’s so beautiful here,” said Julie. “Why does Ko want to destroy it?”

  Bodo smiled slightly. “Destroy it? I’m afraid it’s not quite as simple as that.” From a little space in the wall, he removed a small wooden chest. He flipped open the lid. The chest was empty. “We have been robbed,” he said.

  “My gosh,” said Keeah. “What was stolen? What happened?”

  Vasa took a deep breath. “Something we had always thought impossible,” he said. “At the very moment Ko uttered his curse on the staircase, a horrible beast named Saba entered the Tower and stole five small but very important treasures from this box.”

  “What are the treasures?” asked Eric.

  Bodo shook his head. “We never knew. Hours before he disappeared in the city of Ut, Galen gave us five unique treasures sealed in this chest. He said that without these treasures, the staircase would never have existed. And that only these treasures would restore the staircase if it was ever lost. Galen put this chest in the Tower for safekeeping. Unfortunately, the treasures were not safe from Saba.”

  “But that’s not all,” added Vasa. He pointed to five stones in different places on the tower walls. The stones had been wiped clean, as if there had never been any writing on them.

 
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