The heavy rain that fell from the stormy skies around them did little to dampen the celebrations of the dragon riders cutting through the thick dark clouds. Everything was perfect.
“We did it!” Kira cheered triumphantly. “We’re free!”
Clutching her dragon Jinx’s reins in her hands, Kira celebrated their escape from Lord Dorcon. As she laughed and waved to her brother, Dane and his friend Shanks-Spar, on their black dragon, Rexor, a very small part of her wished she could have seen the evil lord’s face when he realized they’d escaped through Paradon’s Eye.
It had been a struggle getting to where they were. Many times she doubted they would ever make it. But they had. They were safely away from Lord Dorcon and his legion of men out to capture them.
Soon, she would travel to the palace of King Arden and fulfil the ancient prophecy foretold by the great wizard Elan. It spoke of a girl, who, like her, dressed as a boy and who, also like her, had long red hair kept in braids and who rode a twin tailed dragon. The prophecy said she would end the evil monarchy. This warrior girl, this forbidden dragon rider, would restore freedom to the land and finally end the kingdom’s terrible First Law.
Kira knew she was that girl. Somehow, someway, she was the one destined to challenge First Law and destroy it. For only when it was destroyed, would she feel that she had succeeded. With the help of her beloved twin-tailed dragon, Jinx, and support of her family, Kira would fulfil the prophecy.
It was just a matter of heading back to Paradon’s castle to prepare to take on a king.
“Kira,” Dane called excitedly, “Let’s get back to the castle!”
Nodding and waving again, she knew her heart fluttered with excitement that soon there would be peace in the land.
“Kira?” Kahrin said softly as she tapped her lightly on the shoulder.
When Kira looked back, she saw her younger sister sitting forward in the saddlebox looking around. “Kira, where’s Elspeth?”
Kira frowned, “She’s right behind-”
She looked back to where she’d last seen her youngest sister riding with the fox, Onnie on the dragon, Harmony. Elspeth was no longer there. As her frown deepened, she looked to the right, past Dane and Shanks, and then turned to her left. But no matter where she looked, she couldn’t see Elspeth on the large red dragon.
Suddenly gripped with fear, she directed Jinx to fly closer to Rexor.
“Dane, where’s Shadow?” Kira used her pet name for her youngest sister. “She was right behind us, now I can’t see her.”
Both Dane and Shanks turned in the saddle and searched the dark sky for signs of Elspeth on Harmony.
“I can’t see her!” Dane called. “Let’s go back. Maybe she went down to Paradon’s already.”
As Kira directed Jinx to turn around, she knew Elspeth wouldn’t do that. They’d spent too long together on the Rogue’s Mountain for Elspeth to do something without her.
“Find Shadow, Jinx,” Kira called to her dragon as panic started to grip her heart. “Where’s Shadow?”
Kira watched Jinx reacting to Elspeth’s name. Despite the sound of the wind whipping around them and the constant beat of the rain, she could hear Jinx starting to whine. Soon his whines turned into roars. But it wasn’t a sound Kira had heard him make before. He was roaring, but it was more with fear than anything else.
Jinx’s fear quickly spread through Kira and the rest of her family.
“Kira, let’s go down lower,” Dane called. “Follow us. We can’t see through the storm up this high.”
Kira let Dane take the lead as her brother ordered Rexor to go lower in the sky. Behind her, she could hear Kahrin’s light voice still calling out for Elspeth. With Jinx keeping close to Rexor’s tail, the two dragons made their way down through the thick storm clouds. Kira could barely see the dark blur of Rexor flying ahead as the heavy mist quickly enveloped them.
When they finally burst out of the base of the clouds, Kira’s eyes grew wide with shock as she got her first glimpse of the world around her.
Gone was Paradon’s castle. Gone were the forests that surrounded it. Instead she looked out in fear to a world full of strange and frightening structures reaching high into the dark grey sky.
“Kira,” Shanks called back to her, “Where are we?”
Kira look at him and shook her head, “I don’t know! Something must have gone wrong. Paradon’s spell didn’t work.”
As Rexor and Jinx flew lower in the sky, they drew closer to the buildings. To Kira, they looked as grey and threatening as the skies. Between the tall structures, she saw wide roads with strange looking carts. The carts seemed to be moving without the aid of horses, while on either side of the road, she saw many people. They were looking up at them and pointing.
“Kahrin, can you see Shadow or Harmony down there?” Kira called back.
“No,” Kahrin responded. “I can’t see Paradon’s castle either.”
“Kira,” Shanks called again, “Where should we go?”
Looking around at the strange world that surrounded them, Kira had no idea how they were going to find Elspeth. “We circle back and keep looking for Shadow!”
“Kira? Kira is that you? Can you hear me?”
Kira heard a strange voice calling her name. It was difficult to make out over the whipping winds of the storm, but it seemed close by. “Hello?” she called.
“Kira,” the voice called again.
She looked around for the odd voice but couldn’t see where it came from. But when it started again, Kira realized it was coming from the pendant around her neck. She pulled the dragon’s claw amulet out from under her top and held it up close to her ear.
“It’s me, Paradon. Can you hear me?”
“Paradon? Is that really you?”
“Thank the stars!” the voice cried. “I’ve finally found you.”
Kira looked forward and called to Shanks. Then she pointed to her pendant. “It’s Paradon!”
Shanks shrugged and indicated he couldn’t understand her. As the wind changed direction and the rain intensified, she could barely hear herself. Searching around, she pointed to the flat roof of the tallest building nearest them.
“Land on that tower over there!” she shouted.
She then watched as Shanks instructed Dane to take Rexor down to the nearest building and land on the flat roof. Following closely behind, Jinx was soon touching down beside them.
With her back and side still aching from the recent sword wound she received while she and Elspeth were freeing the girls of Lasser Commons, she carefully undid her harness and slowly climbed out of the saddlebox. Standing on Jinx’s wing, she helped Kahrin climb down as well. In the excitement of their escape she’d forgotten her wound, but now as she moved it started to burn like it did the first few days after it happened.
As she crossed over to Dane and Shanks, her fear and confusion was reflected on their faces.
“Where is Paradon?” Dane asked.
Kira held up the pendant for everyone to hear “Paradon, where are you? What’s happened?”
The wizard’s voice explained quickly. “Everyone, listen to me very carefully. You are in terrible danger. You must leave the city now and head to the Rogue’s Mountain. I’m at the top in your old meadow. Come to me and you’ll be safe.”
“But where are we?” Shanks asked as he looked around at the strange, tall buildings surrounding them. “What is this place?”
“It is the same place you’ve just left. Only time has changed.”
“Paradon, we don’t understand,” Kira said as she looked at the confused faces of Dane, Shanks and Kahrin.
“Kira, you and the others were in the Eye far too long. You didn’t just travel three seasons into the future, you travelled over three thousand!”
“What?” everyone exclaimed.
“Three thousand,” Paradon repeated. “This is a dangerous and brutal time. There are no dragons here, only man-made machines capable of causing terrible pain and destruction. You must get on your dragons and get out of there. If they catch you, there’s no telling what they’ll do. I’m sure they want to capture Jinx and Rexor even more than you.”
“But what about Shadow?” Kira demanded. “Paradon, we can’t find her! I’m not leaving here until we do.”
There was a long pause and then a deep intake of breath. “You won’t find her,” he said finally. “Elspeth isn’t here. She didn’t come through the Eye with you.”
“Not here?” Dane asked. “Where is she?”
“I can’t explain now. But I promise you she’s safe.”
“I still don’t understand. What went wrong?” Kira asked.
“I went wrong,” Paradon said darkly. “I’m incompetent. But I promise you all, I’ll fix this somehow. To do that, you must get off that roof and come to the mountain! Even as we speak, armed choppers and soldiers are heading right for you. You must go.”
“What do you mean? What are armed choppers?” Shanks asked.
“Instead of using dragons, the people of this time have created awful war machines made of metal. Some can fly. They can go faster than any dragon and are more deadly. If they catch you, there is no defence.”
“Then we’re as good as dead,” Dane said.
“Not yet,” Paradon called. “The choppers are faster than dragons, but they’re not as agile. Use your skills and let the dragons do what they do best and you should be able to outfly them.�But you must get moving!”
“Paradon, how can we find you?” Kira called desperately as she looked around at the strange word. “Nothing is the same. Where is the Rogue’s Mountain?”
“No further than it was before,” Paradon explained. “This city rose up on the ruins of my old castle. I told you, only time has changed, not place.”
Still unsure of what the wizard meant, Kira’s eyes scanned over the countless rooftops spreading out before them. In every direction she looked, she saw people gathering on the roofs and pointing at them. But no matter what direction she looked, she had no idea where the Rogue’s Mountain was. If this was where Paradon’s castle once stood, it still gave her no clue as to the direction in which they should now fly.
“I still don’t know how to find the mountain from here,” she said desperately. She looked pleadingly over to Dane and Shanks. “Which direction should we go?”
Both her brother and Shanks shrugged as they too watched the gathering crowds.
Finally Paradon spoke. “I’m using the Eye and can see you. Trust me, I can lead you here. But you must get your dragons into the air before it’s too late.”
Suddenly from behind them, the doors to the roof burst open and soldiers charged out. Kira had never seen anything like them before. They were dressed in strange, shiny black armour that completely covered them from head to foot. Without eye slits, she wondered how they could see through their black helmets. In their hands, they didn’t carry swords or even bows. Instead they clutched strange things she’d never seen before.
“They’ve got guns!” Paradon shouted. “Everyone, put your hands in the air. Show them you surrender.”
“Surrender?” Shanks cried as he drew his sword and took a defensive stance. “I never surrender.”
“You do now,” Paradon warned. “Shanks drop your weapon. You don’t know this world. They don’t need to be close to you to kill you. Trust me, please. Your sword and your armour are useless against their weapons. For the protection of everyone, do as I say and you’ll get out of this alive!”
Kira watched Shanks hesitantly lower his sword down to the ground and raise his hands in the air.
Soon more soldiers filed out onto the roof. Standing still and holding her own arms up high, she couldn’t see their faces to know where they were looking. But from the angle of their heads, they had to be looking at the dragons.
As the soldiers drew closer, Kira heard Jinx start with a low rumbling growl. Stealing a glance back to him, she saw his twin tails start to whip the air as he took a threatening step forward.
“Calm down, Jinx,” Kira called. Then she turned back to the men. “Stay back. He doesn’t like strangers.”
“They can’t understand you,” Paradon called. “Kira, you don’t speak the same language anymore.”
“Then you tell them!” Kira snapped. “Jinx looks like he’s getting ready to attack. You’ve got to warn them.”
A moment later, Kira heard strange words coming from her pendant. For the first time since they’d arrived, the men turned and concentrated on her. When Paradon finished translating the warning to the soldiers, they raised their weapons and pointed them at Kira. Soon one stepped forward and shouted strange angry words at her.
Immediately Paradon started to speak again. But from the look of the soldier’s raised weapons, Kira saw it was making the situation worse. “Paradon, it’s not working! Warn them again. Tell them to stop!”
Before Paradon could speak another word, Jinx let out a ferocious angry roar. Looking back, Kira watched him rear up on his hind legs and open his large blue wings. Beside him, Rexor did the same, though the armour restricting his mouth kept him from roaring.
Torn between looking at Jinx and turning back to the soldiers, Kira screamed as they raised their strange weapons to the dragons. As she watched, loud steady popping sounds filled the air and sparks of fire came out of the end of the weapons.
“Everyone, get down!” Paradon cried. “They’re shooting at the dragons. If they hit you, you’ll die!”
Before everyone made it to the ground, both Jinx and Rexor lunged forward. Carefully racing around them, the dragons had only one target in mind. The soldiers.
As the dragons attacked the armed men, Kira heard terrified cries coming from their black helmets, reminding her of what she’d heard when she and Elspeth were at Lasser Commons and Elspeth had used Jinx to attack the guards.
Trapped on the rooftop, the men’s weapons were useless against the two rampaging dragons. As they scattered and tried to get away, Kira saw Jinx’s two whipping tails knock several men over the side of the building.
Kira quickly pulled Kahrin’s head to her chest so she wouldn’t see the awful sight of the dragons killing the soldiers. Lying behind her, heard Dane and Shanks spoke in shocked disbelief as both Jinx and Rexor came to their defence.
“Dragons don’t do that,” Dane cried. “They don’t care who they attack! They should have gone for us as well. Why didn’t they?”
“You still don’t understand, do you?” Kira challenged, turning back to her brother. “Jinx would never attack us. Nor would he let Rexor. But you saw Rexor. He didn’t want to hurt us. Shadow says he likes you, Dane. Why can’t you believe it?”
“Because they’re dragons!” Shanks cried.
As the last soldier fell beneath the vicious claws of Rexor, Kira sat up and looked at the terrible sight round her. All the soldiers were dead. Some were still on the roof, while others had been knocked or thrown off the side.
“Keep your eyes closed,” Kira said gently to her delicate sister. “Don’t look.”
“I’m all right,” Kahrin said reaching to pull Kira’s hand from her eyes. “I want to see.”
Kira hesitated for a moment before releasing Kahrin. Climbing to her feet she watched her sister closely as she too stood up. After looking around, Kahrin calmly stepped over to Jinx.
“Careful, Kahrin,” Dane warned as he eyed the blue dragon warily.
At her approach, Jinx turned and faced Kahrin. A moment ago, he had been a ferocious monster killing anyone he could find. But as Kahrin approached, he lowered his head to her, inviting her to scratch behind his ears.
“Thank you, Jinx,” Kahrin said lightly and she put her arms around his thick neck.
Kira watched her sister embracing Jinx with fascination. She realized this was the first time since she’d been rescued from Lasser that she had shown any emotion towards the dragon. Actually, it was one of the few times she had shown any emotion at all.
As for Jinx, despite what Paradon said about twin-tailed dragons only liking their riders, her beloved blue dragon seemed to like Kahrin just fine.
“This isn’t over yet!” Paradon’s voice warned from the pendant. “The choppers are almost there. All of you get off that roof now!”
Realizing the danger, Dane cautiously stepped up to Rexor. The tall black dragon calmly looked at him, showing no signs of hostility. Carefully reaching for the reins, he climbed into the saddle. Shanks was quick to follow and climbed on behind him.
Stepping up to Jinx, Kira kissed him lightly on the snout before helping Kahrin climb back into the saddlebox.
Once they were all seated, Kira looked around at the dead soldiers on the rooftop a final time. She regretted that they had died so needlessly. But she knew she had done all she could to stop it. They just wouldn’t listen.
“Kira, you lead and we’ll follow,” Dane called as he directed Rexor over to the edge of the building.
Nodding, Kira turned back to Kahrin to make sure she was strapped in. Then she gave the reins a light tug and ordered Jinx to fly off the building.