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Dragon's Nest

Everybody in Deltora thinks the dragons have disappeared. But the young king Lief knows this isn't true-and that the time has come to find them. The evil Shadow Lord has poisoned the land with four vile creations of sorcery buried with such stealth that only the bravest of heroes will find them.

Lief and his companions Barda and Jasmine must struggle to reveal the origins of the sorcery and destroy them. Their only clue is a fragment of an ancient map. And their only hope of help lies with seven unlikely allies-the last of Deltora's dragons.

Dragon's NestI have many plans. Plans within plans...

Lief stiffened. But the voice in his mind was only a memory.

The crystal is destroyed, he reminded himself. That menace, at least, is gone. My mind is my own again.

"The Four Sisters," muttered Doom. "Sisters of the north, south, east, and west. It is like a riddle!"

"The man they called enemy and upstart knew the answer, for he drew a map to show where the Sisters were," said Lief. "If only we could find out who he was! Our one clue is that he lived in the time of a chief advisor called Drumm. Josef can surely tell us when that was."

"The man himself is not important, Lief!" exclaimed Jasmine. "The important thing is his map! Drumm had part of it, hidden in a safe place. It may still exist."

"After hundreds of years?" jeered Doon.

"Why not?" Jasmine flashed back. "The palace is full of things that have been there for hundreds of years. That is one of the reasons it seems to me a tomb! And surely the palace is where Drumm would have hidden something valuable. He lived there."

"Yes. And he told the Shadow Lord that his part of the map was under his eye," Barda put in.

"'Under my eye and yours,'" said Lief slowly. "That is what he said."

Suddenly, a startling idea came to him.

He jumped up. His heart had begun to beat very fast.

"And what was under the Shadow Lord's eye?" he exclaimed. "Under the Shadow Lord's eye, as well as Drumm's?"

"Is this another riddle?" growled Barda. "If so, I am in no mood for it."

But Lief was already running towards the forge. In moments he was back, dragging the blacked table frame that had supported the crystal.

"Under their eye!" he panted. "What else can that mean, but this?"

"But it was in the fire!" cried Jasmine in horror. "If the map was fastened to it-"

Lief shook his head and threw the table frame onto the ground in the full glare of the moonlight.

"Drumm would have been more careful than that," he said. "If the map is in this frame, there must be a secret compartment somewhere."

He crouched and began running his fingers over the scorched wood. In moments Jasmine, Doom, and Barda had joined him.

The search was long. The varnish on the wood had swelled and bubbled in the fire, leaving the surface of the table frame so rough that Lief soon despaired of finding a secret compartment by touch as he had hoped.

Then Jasmine cried out excitedly. As they all crowded around to look, her finger traced a small rectangle on the inside of one of the table legs.

"A piece has been cut away here, then replaced," she said. "Do you see? The patch fits very tightly, but the grain of the wood does not quite match."

Lief, Barda and Doom stared blankly at the table let. They could see no change in the grain at all. But none of them doubted Jasmine. She had grown up in the Forests of Silence, and knew trees in all their forms as no one else did.

They watched as she fitted the point of her dagger into the edge of the patch only she could see. Soon a small block of wood had fallen to the ground, and Jasmine was slipping her fingers into the shallow hole now visible in the table leg.

"There is something in here," she whispered. "I-have it!" Very carefully, she withdrew her fingers.

Between her fingertips was a folded scrap of yellowed paper.

"I cannot believe it," breathed Barda.

Gently, Jasmine unfolded the paper. It was a fragment of map, old and creased but strangely familiar.

"It is Deltora's east," Lief breathed. He pointed to the large "S" marked on the map fragment. "And that, I imagine, shows where the first Sister lies."

"In a place called Dragon's Nest," said Barda. "I do not like the sound of that."

"It is the rhyme I do no like," said Doom.

And they all stared at the two lines of verse, which had been added to the map in a strange, bold hand.

Sisters four with poisoned breath
Bring to the land a long, slow death.