Book Two Coming Soon!
Diana’s Dragons: The Stolen
By J.R. Schumaker
The corner of the cave where Jeff Santos found himself was bare and shallow. And it was guarded by vultures. It was not that he couldn’t leave the tiny alcove, but should he wander a few feet toward the main chamber, the birds were upon him, and not just with their natural arsenal. Had beaks and talons been the only threats, he would have run for it long ago. No, around each bird’s neck was a rectangular medallion bearing the Ouroboros–the symbol that Clarin had fused into the puzzle box. And whatever those devices were, they gave the screeches of those vultures the power to lay Jeff Santos flat. The pain was nearly unbearable; the paralysis was insurmountable.
Mr. Santos had tried running twice. The first time, the vultures didn’t move until he was a few yards past them. Then in unison, they attacked. At his head and arms their talons scratched, but this lasted only a few seconds and was the least of the onslaught.
Their screeches—the noise pounded his skull. He felt like the asphalt under a jackhammer, except he fell to the ground and twitched helplessly, as the painful distortions swept through him. Once the vibrations in his head wore off, it was several minutes before the use of his muscles returned. He lay on the forest floor, watching the creatures circle, as he waited for even the tiniest movement of his pinky to respond to his brain’s desperate command: move.
The second time he tried it, everything doubled in intensity and duration. He knew he would not survive a third attempt.
The dragon-poaching lunatic who kept him here had forced him from the large, center chamber of the dragonkin’s ancestral lair—the lair viciously hijacked from Clarin and Shay. Jeff Santos had dwelled among black walls and dragon pellets since he’d been caught digging around for and stockpiling dragon scales.
It was too bad, too, for the obvious reason that it robbed Santos of any shred of new observations on the madman’s schemes. It also robbed him of one of the things that had helped keep him going: the cave walls embedded with thousands of living mistcrystals. The sparkling stones seemed to whisper to him with all the first breaths of the dragonkin. For countless generations, each and every mistcrystal became a permanent part of the dragonkin’s lair, the abstract birth record of every dragon ever born to them, including Clarin and Shay and their first brood. The effect was a dazzling, breathing kaleidoscope. When the morning light spilled in, the reflections danced in a million prismatic rainbows all around him.
Even the scrap of sunlight that made it through to the dismal inner chamber was enough to set off a show of light. During those times, he got the strangest feeling that he’d known the dragon family all his life; that his grandparents had known their grandparents. Mr. Santos laughed aloud at himself. That would be a good trick: his grandfather knowing Clarin’s, considering the fact that dragons lived about three times as long as humans. For all the horror of being entrapped there, Jeff Santos could not help but wish his family could have seen what he saw, especially Diana, his little honorary dragon.
Of course, he had to remind himself many times that Diana was not such a little girl anymore. She was twelve, now. Twelve—he could barely comprehend it; and Brody was seven. The realization hit him hard, just as it did every time he calculated the months—now years—since their last two birthdays, two new school years, two summers he and Linda would have been working while Diana and Brody were playing, until a crazy last-minute vacation they cooked up overnight and sprang on the kids.
Linda. How he missed her. He still reached for her in the night, to be awakened by pangs of loss that felt brand new every time. How was she coping with his absence? The not knowing? She was left to raise their kids without him while they all lived in the uncertainty. There was no one stronger for it, he knew, and Diana was a strong, smart girl who’d be there for her mom and little Brody. Jeff winced inside, feeling like his heart was folding in on itself with the ache of missing those who lived there.
Jeff had done all he could to get the warning back to them. He wasn’t sure of his jailor’s plot. Even when he’d managed to send the message box back with Clarin and Shay, he hadn’t known much of the half-information he now possessed. He had to hope that Diana and the dragons could put it all together: that Illsworth was hardly their biggest threat; that the dragons were in terrible danger; that he both needed them desperately and desperately wanted to help them.
This maniac who imprisoned Jeff could count on Marcurius Illsworth for only so much. Jeff Santos was still alive for one reason: his captor needed the dragons to come for him. At some point, everything would come back to the rainforest.