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Authors: Bryan Davis

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Tears of a Dragon

Dragons in Our Midst, Volume 4

 

Tears of a Dragon

 

Bryan Davis

 

Tears of a Dragon

Copyright © 2005 by Bryan Davis

Living Ink Books, an imprint of AMG Publishers

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in printed reviews, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (printed, written, photocopied, visual electronic, audio, or otherwise) without the prior permission of the publisher.

Tears of a Dragon
is the fourth of four books in the youth fantasy fiction series,
Dragons in Our Midst
.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Print ISBN: 978-0-89957-173-7

ePub ISBN: 978-1-61715-003-6

Mobi ISBN: 978-1-61715-032-6

DRAGONS IN OUR MIDST and ORACLES OF FIRE are registered trademarks of AMG Publishers.

First printing—October 2005

Cover designed by Daryle Beam, Market Street Design, Inc., Chattanooga, Tennessee

Interior design and typesetting by Reider Publishing Services, West Hollywood, California

Edited and proofread by Becky Miller, Susie Davis, Sharon Neal, Rick Steele, and Dan Penwell

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Davis, Bryan, 1958-

Tears of a dragon / by Bryan Davis.

p. cm. — (Dragons in our midst ; bk. 4)

Summary: Ashley and Billy, aided by the dragons, their friends, and a powerful, ancient book, each take courageous steps to rescue loved ones from Morgan Le Faye and her demonic Watchers.

ISBN-13: 978-0-89957-173-7 (pbk. : alk. paper)

ISBN-10: 0-89957-173-5 (pbk. : alk. paper)

[1. Dragons—Fiction. 2. Demonology—Fiction. 3. Knights and knighthood—Fiction. 4. Christian life—Fiction. 5. Supernatural— Fiction.] I. Title. II. Series: Davis, Bryan, 1958- Dragons in our midst ; bk. 4. PZ7.B285557Tea 2005 [Fic]—dc22 2005023905

Author’s Note

A boy dreams with a sword in his hand. A girl gives him reason to draw it from its scabbard, and she infuses him with the power to charge into battle.

This book is for every boy, even those who are now wrinkled and gray, who feels his heart race and his spine tingle every time a sword is drawn to conquer an enemy. Although many of us often feel weak, when our women and children are in danger, we transform into mighty warriors.

This book is for every girl, even those who have given birth to boys and girls of their own, who feels her heart swell when she mends up her wounded man and sends him back out, fully charged and ready to battle for the sake of righteousness. Without you, our swords would rust in their scabbards.

Acknowledgments

I would like to depart from the usual format of acknowledgments and just say thank you again to everyone I mentioned in the first three books.

For this book, the final installment of
Dragons in our Midst
, I want to set aside this section exclusively for my wonderful life mate, Susie.

My wife, my love, without you, I could never have written this series of books. You have faithfully stood by me, correcting hundreds of errors as you read the manuscripts over and over again. Your dedication is unmatched. Your patience is unparalleled. Your love is unfathomable.

Merlin’s Promise

When dragons flew in days of old

With flashing scales and flame,

They soared in scarlet droves of fear

With hearts no man could tame.

The Watchers sang a siren’s chant,

Seducing tickled ears,

Ensnaring girls with heads laid bare

And dragons far and near.

While most fell prey to Satan’s song,

A few held fast their birth

And worshipped God’s created realm,

Religion of the earth.

Content to suffer wrapped in chains,

A dragon leaves the skies.

Content to bleed for souls unknown,

A dragon bows and dies.

But can such faith repel the wrath

When evil is reborn?

Can sacrifice alone endure

When scaly hearts are torn?

A warrior comes with sword and shield,

With truth and faith in hand,

Exposing lies and cutting through

The darkness in the land.

Has eye not seen, has ear not heard,

The love that sets men free?

From scales to flesh he softens hearts;

From red to white he bleeds.

And when the warrior rests his blade,

With virgin bride he kneels.

The dragons fade from scales to dust

And bless the golden seal.

Chapter 1

Fama Regis

Bonnie leaned against the bedrail and clutched Sir Barlow’s burly hand. “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

Barlow smiled, lifting his mustache. His dark eyes sparkled. “Yes, Miss. Thanks to an infusion of your blood, I am as fit as a fiddle.” The knight’s brow furrowed under thick strands of unkempt hair. “That is the correct idiom, isn’t it?”

Bonnie tightened her grip on Barlow’s hand and laughed. “That’s the perfect idiom for a true gentleman!”

Barlow’s smile broadened, revealing a chipped front tooth among a half-dozen yellowed incisors.

A new voice filled the room, strong and cheerful. “Indeed it is the correct idiom. A fine violin well played is fit for heaven itself.”

Bonnie spun toward the sound. Professor Hamilton, her teacher and friend, ambled into the hospital room, unbuttoning his black trench coat. She glanced at a clock on the wall. “Did you run into trouble somewhere?”

“Only minor annoyances.” The professor clipped a cell phone to his belt and leaned a wet umbrella against the wall. “I’m afraid the foul weather has caused the entire populace to forget customary manners. There seems to be a general uneasiness, an underlying anxiety weighing down every man, woman, and child.” He pulled a wrapped sandwich from his coat pocket and handed it to Bonnie. “The restaurant queue seemed interminable, and several pushy fellows insisted on . . . ahem . . . butting into the line.” The professor nodded at Barlow. “I could have used the services of a battle-trained warrior.” He withdrew another sandwich from his opposite pocket. “This is for you, but Dr. Kaplan said you must maintain the hospital diet until tonight, so I’ll save it. Was your noontime meal sufficient?”

Barlow mumbled something unintelligible under his breath, then added in a louder voice, “A ghost couldn’t survive eating the paltry servings here.”

Bonnie put her sandwich in the side pocket of her backpack. “I’ll go outside to eat this later. No use torturing our good knight.” She hitched up her pack to make her hidden dragon wings more comfortable. “Did Sir Patrick have any news?”

“Quite a bit.” The professor ran his hand through his unruly white hair. “It seems that the Great Key, as he calls it, is now in William’s possession. Apparently Shiloh gave it to him last night at the campfire.”

Bonnie caressed a colorful string of beads around her neck. “The pendant with the rubellite? How is that a key?”

“Patrick says he will tell us more when he comes.” The professor squinted at the intravenous tube stretching from a dangling plastic bag to Barlow’s arm, then pulled a pair of spectacles from his shirt pocket. “He did tell me that Merlin called it the Great Key in a prophecy, indicating that it would be crucial should the Watchers ever emerge from their prison.” He slipped the glasses on and read the label on the IV bag. “Patrick confirmed our thoughts, that we should locate the king’s chronicles. The book will help us unlock the mystery of the key.” He lowered his head and sighed.

Bonnie tried to make eye contact with the professor. “Is something wrong with Sir Barlow’s IV?”

The professor’s gentle smile quivered. “No, no. That’s not it at all.” He slid his hands into his pockets. “It just reminded me of days long past when I spent many hours coaxing instruments like these to work just a little bit better.” Drooping his head, he pushed an electrical cord under the bed with his foot. “Those were times of shadows, the darkest days of my life.”

Bonnie took a step closer. “Do you mind telling me what happened?”

“Oh, no. Not at all.” The professor pulled a wallet from his back pocket and fished out a locket-sized photo from inside. He bent over and showed it to her.

Bonnie studied the photo, a black-and-white picture of a man in a tuxedo and a woman in a wedding gown. She felt the joy of the smiling faces and the oneness of the clasped hands. “She’s beautiful, Professor. You look very happy.”

“Yes, we both were.” He returned the photo to his wallet and straightened. “It has been more than twenty years since she passed away.”

“I knew she died, but I didn’t know when.” She took the professor’s hand in hers, trying again to catch his faraway gaze. “It must have been very sad for you.”

The professor finally looked down at her and smiled, but it was a sad smile. “Indeed. She was the light of my life. We were as close as two people can be, one mind, one spirit. Our daughter, Elizabeth, was about to be married, and the evening before the wedding, we attended the rehearsal dinner, a beautiful affair at a posh restaurant—white tablecloths, crystal, silver, fine china—all the trimmings of an elegant feast. Later that night, my wife became deathly ill—food poisoning of some sort—and she had to go to the hospital. She insisted that the wedding go on as planned, and since one of my students, Carl Foley, whom you know, of course, as Walter’s father, volunteered to stay with her, we decided to set up a live video feed to the room so she could attend the ceremony from her hospital bed.”

“Then she got to see the wedding?”

“Yes, but by the time I returned to her side, she had worsened. The doctors had no explanation, but it was as if she were drifting away; her mind was leaving her body. She would cry out, ‘Help me! I’m falling!’ though she lay securely in bed. As you can imagine, I was beside myself, but God did not answer my prayers according to my desires.” He straightened the intravenous tube, his bottom lip quivering as his voice began to crack. “She . . .” He swallowed and wiped a tear. “She passed away that very night.”

Bonnie slid her hand around his elbow and leaned her head against his arm. “I’m so sorry, Professor.”

He leaned over and kissed Bonnie gently on the top of her head. “As were many others, little angel. It was such a lovely funeral with hundreds of gracious mourners. And so many people brought flowers! We both loved our flower garden, so I made sure I flooded the funeral home with her favorite, the carnation, and I added Easter lilies, of course, but the guests brought dozens and dozens of bouquets and laid them against the casket. And, strangely enough, people also brought dresses and skirts my wife had made for their daughters.” He laughed under his breath, his eyes glistening. “She couldn’t bear to make pants for them. She believed young ladies should look like young ladies. In any case, the visitors expressed their thankfulness for my wife’s skill and generosity in sharing her love with so many friends and neighbors. It was as if the story of Dorcas in the book of Acts were being replayed at the funeral.” A new tear made its way down the sage’s wrinkled cheek, and his voice pitched up ever so slightly. “But there was no apostle Peter to come and awaken my precious one from sleep.” The professor raised his hand and bit his knuckle, closing his eyes as his body heaved with stifled sobs.

Bonnie wrapped her arms around his waist and held him close. She glanced at Sir Barlow. Tears streamed down the knight’s face, too.

After a long pause, the professor spoke again, his voice now much stronger. “So I will have to go to her when I finish my course here on earth, and I look forward to that day with great anticipation.”

Bonnie gave him a strong hug. “I know you miss her, but I hope your course isn’t finished for a long time.” She pulled away, looking up at the professor with the brightest smile she could muster. “So she was a seamstress? What a wonderful gift!”

“Yes. What she could do with a needle and thread!” He sighed again, his lips tightening. “But that is in the past, and there are new dark days to deal with, I’m afraid.” He strolled to the window, sliding his hands into his pockets again as he gazed at the wet landscape through the foggy glass. Raindrops pelted the windowpane, sounding like a hundred soft fingers tapping for permission to enter. “I am concerned for Patrick. He seems weak . . . exhausted.” He withdrew one hand and sketched a square on the condensation. “He is many centuries old, even older than I knew. And now, being fully human, he will certainly die. I fear his days are coming to a close.”

He wiped away the condensation with his sleeve. “And Patrick informed me that this is no ordinary weather event. These monsoon conditions are spreading over the entire North American continent, and a similar phenomenon is beginning in Europe. While I was walking in the downpour, it seemed that each drop emitted a popping noise as it struck the sidewalk, much like the sputter of a droplet on a hot fryer, yet so faint that I doubt I would have noticed if I had not leaned over to pluck a quarter from the walk. With thousands of droplets popping, it reminded me of Rice Krispies in a bowl of milk.”

“Do you think that’s what’s making people so irritable and jumpy?” Bonnie asked.

“Very possibly. If this is demonic work, stirring fear in the hearts of people would certainly fit their modus operandi, but there may be more substance to this rain than simple fear mongering.”

Barlow sat up in bed and threw off his sheets. “There is no time to lose.” He stripped the tape that held his IV tube in place. “Those scoundrels from the abyss are a step ahead of us. We must summon my knights to battle!”

Bonnie wrapped her fingers around Barlow’s wrist. “Wait! The nurse will do that.”

The professor jumped to the bedside and grasped Barlow’s shoulder. “Patience, my good fellow. Dr. Kaplan has already ordered your discharge. We will get you out of here as soon as possible.”

Barlow laid his hand over Bonnie’s, an apologetic look on his face. “I’m sorry for my outburst, Miss, but I’m anxious to lead my men into battle against the demons.”

Bonnie gently fastened the tape back on Barlow’s arm. “It won’t be long now. If we can get you out of here soon enough, we can all go and get Sir Patrick and your knights at the airport.”

“That reminds me,” the professor said. “We couldn’t possibly carry everyone in my car, so I called Marilyn this morning and asked her to fly here and ferry some of us back to West Virginia.”

Bonnie straightened the IV tube and draped it around the bed. “Did you ask Billy to search for King Arthur’s book?”

The professor patted her on the shoulder. “Yes. He said he would search for it right away.”

“Right away? In this downpour?”

“Yes. With the Watchers on the move, we must act quickly. If they are able to manipulate the weather, the magnitude of the disasters they can wreak is incalculable.” He ran his finger along the IV tube and sighed, his eyes wet with new tears. “Are you ready to face more danger, Miss Silver?”

Warmth surged through Bonnie’s body, as if an oven-heated blanket wrapped around her and chased away the autumn chill. She gazed at her teacher. If only there were some way she could give him a glimpse of all the wonder she had seen in heaven after dying in the sixth circle. What earthly words could possibly express the joy of perfect bliss? “Professor, I have been in the arms of my Lord in heaven, and I saw a reflection of my face in his laughing eyes.” She felt her own tears welling up as she folded her hands at her waist. “I’ve never been more ready in all my life.”

Billy tiptoed across the rocky cave floor, guiding Excalibur with both hands. The sword’s energy pierced the darkness and spread out into a glowing sphere, surrounding him in a wash of alabaster light. As he glided under the bright shroud, the cave’s shifting air penetrated his skin like the grip of a life-devouring phantom.

The professor’s call had already delivered a numbing bite to his senses. “Locate
Fama Regis
,” he had said. “And guard the pendant well. The fate of the entire world could hang in the balance.”

Billy shivered hard. His journey to the dragon’s den had begun under gloomy skies that quickly deteriorated into a torrential downpour. Now, in the cave’s cool draft, his wet clothes sapped his body heat. He freed one hand and blew a stream of superheated breath on his fingers, making them toasty warm in seconds.

As he advanced deeper into the expansive cavity, a hint of danger pricked his mind, prompting him to creep more slowly, one gentle step after another. A trickle of water echoed nearby. That was new. Clefspeare’s cave had always been perfectly dry before. But now a steady plink, plink, plink troubled the silence, slowly escalating in frequency. The sound racked his nerves. He couldn’t see any water yet, but those drips had to collect somewhere, and that meant trouble. If a growing pool reached the ancient book . . .

He stopped and sniffed the damp air. After his experiences with scentsers in the circles of seven, he vowed never to let one of those mind-altering odors sneak up on him again. This was no time to get waylaid by sleepiness or anger, or even worse, fits of laughter. The needle on his danger meter pushed toward the yellow-alert zone, but he had no way to tell who, or what, might be lurking in the shadows. It was time for silence.

He dimmed the sword’s glow and crept forward again, mentally shushing the crunching pebbles under his hiking boots. At the back of the cave, the walls came together in a crease. A collection of marble-sized stones lay in a pile where the corner met the floor. Billy crouched, picked up one of the stones, and brought it close to the sword. Its polished facets shimmered red, sending streaks of crimson across his fingers. A laser-like beam shot toward an octagonal pendant dangling from a chain around his neck. The gem in the pendant’s center seemed to answer the stone’s red aura, pulsing vibrantly with its own shade of crimson like the heart of a ready warrior.

“Yo! Billy!”

Billy dropped the gem and jumped to his feet. He extended Excalibur and brightened its glow. “Walter? Is that you?”

“Who else?” Walter stepped into the sword’s corona. “Thanks for the light. It would’ve been hard to find you without that overgrown mosquito zapper.” He extended a dripping umbrella. “It’s pouring out there. I thought you might want this.” He pulled down the hood of his olive drab rain slicker. “Something wrong?”

Billy tucked the pendant under his shirt and took the umbrella. “My danger alarm’s working overtime, so you kind of spooked me. But it couldn’t be you setting it off; you’re not dangerous.”

“Who says so?” Walter unbuttoned the front of his raincoat. “I’ll bet Devin thinks I’m dangerous by now, sitting in that candlestone with nothing to do but twiddle his claws.”

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