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Authors: Michael Pryor

The Lost Castle

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Book One
The Lost Castle

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Chronicles of Krangor 1: The Lost Castle

ePub ISBN 9781864714821
Kindle ISBN 9781864716733

Original Print Edition

Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney NSW 2060
www.randomhouse.com.au

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First published by Random House Australia in 2007

Copyright © Michael Pryor 2007

This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry

Pryor, Michael.
The lost castle.

For primary school aged children.

ISBN: 9781741662047

1. Quests (Expeditions) – Juvenile fiction. I. Title. (Series: Pryor, Michael. Chronicles of Krangor; bk. 1).

A823.3

Cover illustration by Sam Hadley
Cover and text design by Astred Hicks, Wideopen Media
Map by Damien Demaj, DEMAP
Typeset by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed and bound by Griffi n Press, South Australia

For librarians, with thanks

One

'What do they want?' Adalon asked his father, Lord Ollamon, as they stood behind the parapet of High Battilon.

Sun flashed on the armour and bright blades of the approaching force. The thunder of their passage echoed from the surrounding hills and over the rooftops of Lod, the small village that huddled around the castle's walls.

'I do not know,' Lord Ollamon said, his tail twitching. 'It is strange to see the Queen's Own Guard so far from Challish.'

Adalon's mother had died when he was a baby and he had been close to his father ever since. So he knew
Lord Ollamon was concerned; his claws gripped the stonework hard enough to leave marks. Adalon, however, was eager to see the latest weapons and armour from the smithies of the capital of Thraag. He stared out over the long approach to the castle. The Queen's Own Guard, here in the Eastern Peaks province? It was a wonder!

Adalon had seen fifteen years. He was tall for his age, and strong-shouldered for a Clawed One. He had dashing blue patches on the scales of both cheeks, and his thumb-claws were sharp and curved. Clawed Ones were the swiftest of all the saur kind, and Adalon was renowned for never having lost a race. He tapped his claws on the stone with frustration, waiting for the soldiers to arrive.

* * *

Lord Ollamon had assembled a small party in the courtyard. Adalon stood to one side of his father; on the other side stood the courtly Sir Moralon – Lord Ollamon's younger brother and Adalon's uncle. Lord Ollamon greeted the leader of the twenty soldiers.

'General Wargrach,' he called over the sounds of the soldiers' riding beasts, iron shoes clattering on cobblestones. 'What brings you here?'

General Wargrach? Adalon had heard tales of the famous soldier, and he craned his neck to see if the general lived up to his legend.

The general was a short, heavily built Toothed One. Looking at him, Adalon could see the ancestors of the saur, the enormous creatures who strode the world when time was young, making the earth shake beneath their mighty feet. Compared to them, modern saur were small. Better brains had come at the cost of size. Claws had grown smaller as hands learned to grasp. But General Wargrach was a reminder of days gone by. His movements, his bearing, his cold expression – all spoke of the past when the saur were giants.

'I'm here on the Queen's business,' Wargrach growled. He dismounted and waited for his three lieutenants to join him.

'Where are our quarters?' demanded the tallest of the lieutenants, a haughty young Clawed One with shining green throat scales.

'Quarters be hanged,' the other Clawed One snapped. His eyes were red. 'I need ale to cut the road dust from my throat.' He eyed Lord Ollamon. 'You do have ale out here in the provinces, don't you?'

The soldiers supported this with cheers and shouts as they dismounted their riding beasts. General Wargrach glanced at the third of his lieutenants – a squat Plated One with very dark eyes. He needed no helmet or shield, for his heavy, ridged skin protected him from weapons. His tail had a fearsome spike on the end.

The Plated One plucked a potion bottle from a pouch on his belt. He tossed the violet glass at the two complaining lieutenants. It shattered at their feet and they leaped backward, squawking, as a plume of purple fire licked at them.

The purple flames vanished. General Wargrach held up a clawed hand and the pair stood at attention. 'Inspect the troops. Now.'

They hurried off, arranging the soldiers in two lines and making a great show of checking equipment and weapons.

Adalon was wide-eyed at the casual way the Plated One had used magic. He decided that the general had ordered such a display to impress. It had been successful, for a murmur swept around the courtyard.

Wargrach turned to Ollamon. 'They are young,' he said. 'But they show promise.' He looked around the courtyard and up at the two slender towers that flew the flag of the Eastern Peaks province. 'I have not visited your castle before, Ollamon. I would see more of it.'

'Moralon will show you the castle,' Lord Ollamon said, 'while I make sure your soldiers are well quartered.'

Moralon inclined his head. 'Of course.'

Adalon tagged along as his uncle took the general and his lieutenants on a tour. General Wargrach listened and observed, showing interest in the construction of the castle. The Clawed One lieutenants sneered constantly, and complained about being so far from the royal court at Challish. The Plated One said nothing.

Moralon hurried ahead of the small party, closing doors to untidy parts of the castle. 'I'm sorry,' he said over and over again, 'we weren't expecting you. We were unprepared.'

General Wargrach waved the apologies away. 'Are the stables down here?'

'Indeed, let me show you.' Moralon scurried ahead, much to the amusement of the lieutenants.

* * *

It was at dinner that night, in the banqueting hall, that the purpose of General Wargrach's visit was revealed.

Adalon was sitting near the head of the table, to the left of his great-uncle Baradon. Baradon was an enormous Clawed One. In his youth, his bulk had been muscle. Now, his love of food and his lack of activity had turned the muscle to fat. His belly hung over his belt, and he often struggled to rise once he settled himself in a chair.

Moralon was there, and a few of the more important saur from the town were present as well. They were mightily impressed by the uniforms of General Wargrach and his aides.

Adalon listened closely to the arguments and banter that lunged up and down the table. Insults came from General Wargrach's Clawed One aides, and they roared with laughter whenever one of the other guests took offence. They attacked their food, cracking bones in their jaws, grinding them noisily and shouting for more from the servants. The Plated One sat at Wargrach's left hand and ate sparingly, drinking only water.

Adalon found it difficult to make up his mind about General Wargrach. He noticed how everyone listened when the general spoke. His voice was a deep growl, but he never had to raise it. While his aides drank tankard after tankard of ale and wine, the general barely sipped at his. His eyes were hard and cold, and he spent as much time sizing up the banqueting hall as he did studying the others at the table. Adalon noticed that his gaze lingered on Moralon, and it was a gaze full of calculation.

After the meal, Lord Ollamon cleared his throat and tapped a claw on the table until he had everyone's attention. 'General Wargrach. While we are always happy to see the Queen's representative, I'm sure we'd all be interested in hearing your reason for this visit.'

Adalon would never forget the smile General Wargrach gave at that moment. It was his first of the entire evening and it showed his dagger-like teeth. It was more a challenge than an attempt to be friendly.

'The Queen wishes to build a fortress at Sleeto,' he said, his gaze on Lord Ollamon.

Adalon blinked. Sleeto was a tiny village in the highest of the Eastern Peaks, right in the middle of the only pass to the neighbouring kingdom of Callibeen. Adalon and his friends Targesh and Simangee often spent time there, rambling through the rugged landscape, exploring caves, finding tiny lakes that were as deep and clear as the midnight sky. He had spent many hours boating on those freezing lakes, Simangee singing traditional Crested One songs beside him, while Targesh waited on the shore, a true Horned One, suspicious of water.

A fortress in peaceful Sleeto?
he thought. His claws bit into his palms.
Never!

Lord Ollamon frowned. 'Why?'

'Are you not loyal to your Queen, Lord Ollamon?' General Wargrach growled.

General Wargrach's lieutenants leaned back in their chairs, hands dropping to their weapons.

'Of course I am.'

'Then you'll support the Queen's projects.'

'I have always supported the Queen,' Lord Ollamon said carefully. 'What exactly does she ask of us?'

'When the fortress is complete, it will be garrisoned from the Eastern Peaks. From your province you will conscript one thousand soldiers for duty. You will also be responsible for provisions and equipment for the fortress.'

Lord Ollamon stared. 'One thousand soldiers? From the Eastern Peaks? That is madness! That would be half our able-bodied saur! How would we tend to crops and herds?'

General Wargrach put both of his massive hands on the table. His claws were sharp and cruel. 'A loyal subject would find a way to carry out the Queen's commands.'

Lord Ollamon leaned forward. '
If
those are the Queen's commands. You have this in writing?'

General Wargrach hissed and gripped the table. Adalon thought he was about to heave it over. 'I am the Queen's representative. I am her voice. I need no documents.'

'I am the lord of the Eastern Peaks province.
I have the right to speak directly to the Queen on matters concerning my lands. I will travel to Challish and seek an audience with her.'

General Wargrach stared at Lord Ollamon in silence. Eventually he nodded. 'As you wish.' He stood. His aides joined their commander as he stalked toward the door. When they reached it, the general paused and turned. 'They say the hunting is particularly fine in the Eastern Peaks.'

Lord Ollamon did not reply.

Moralon glanced at his brother, then stood. 'It is, General Wargrach. The game is plentiful.'

'Then perhaps you and Lord Ollamon will join my saur and me at dawn? There's nothing like the smell of blood in the morning.'

BOOK: The Lost Castle
3.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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