The following is chapter five of The Dragon Protector.  (Need to start at the beginning?  Click here to go to chapter one.)

“Right.  The plan.”  Javan rubbed his sweaty palms on his pants.  The sweat made him feel nervous, and he needed to sound confident.

“It’s simple,” Javan said.  “We find a Dusk Stalker egg, take it through the portal to earth, wait for it to hatch, then bring it back to Zandador.  While it’s growing big enough for me to ride, we head to Midnight Territory to collect the Midnight Stalker.  Done and done.”

“That is not simple!”  Vince’s shriek made Javan flinch.  “To begin with, Midnight Stalkers are the toughest dragons to collect and live in the most difficult territory to get to and navigate.  You can’t stroll up there, snap your fingers, and ride the first dragon that appears.”

“Point taken,” Javan said, his mind churning.  He needed a counterargument.  Quickly.  “So we take a Midnight egg with us as well.  Baby dragons are a lot easier to collect than full grown dragons who are centuries old.  At least I think so.  I’ve never actually seen a baby dragon.”

“I have,” Taliya said.  “They are adorable.  Until they get big enough to eat you, which doesn’t take long.  They grow fast.”

“You’re overlooking the second problem,” Vince said.  “Dragon eggs are not easy to find.  Protectors are very good at protecting their locations.  Trying to locate the Dusk egg will be challenging enough.  If you do happen to find it, do you think you’ll be able to keep it safe while traipsing through the rough terrain in Midnight Territory?”

“I guess that could be problematic.”  Javan surrendered to Vince’s logic but held his ground when it came to his original plan.  “We’ll just focus on the Dusk egg for now.”

“Except you’re forgetting the third thing:  getting through the portal is impossible.  It’s constantly guarded by dozens of soldiers, plus you have to have a Protector to activate it for you.”

“That’s me,” Taliya said, raising her hand.  Strands of her long, dark hair had escaped from its braid and brushed the skin of her dark brown face.  Her bright blue eyes sparkled with pride when she introduced herself.  “I’m Taliya, Dragon Protector.”

“A Protector?”  Vince cocked his head.  “That does make a difference.  I assume then that you know where to find dragon eggs and have experience activating the portal.”

“Those assumptions may not be entirely accurate,” Taliya said, tucking some of those stray strands of hair behind her ear.  “However, I do know where to find someone who knows where to find Dusk Stalker eggs, and I have the Protector’s book to teach me about activating the portal.”

“Wonderful.  You know someone who knows something, and you have a book.”  Vince rolled his eyes, reminding Javan of his grandfather Ravier.  No big surprise.  Vince was Ravier’s father, and the two men evidently shared the same no-nonsense, no-fun attitude.  “Javan, your plan is foolish.”

“Thank you for agreeing with me,” Micah said.  “Now we can get back to my plan.”

“No, we can’t.”  Javan wasn’t about to let these guys dictate how he would go about collecting the rest of his dragons.  “We’re going to find a Dusk Stalker egg.  We’re going to take it through the portal.  We’re going to bring it back to Zandador after it hatches, and that is that.  Since that is what we are going to do, our mission is to work together to figure out how to make it all happen.  Understood?”

Micah sighed.  “Fine.”

Taliya smiled.  “Count me in.”

“Vince?”

Vince nodded, put his sword away, and slapped Javan on the back.  “Decisiveness.  I like it.  I don’t like your plan, but I like your confidence.  I won’t be able to help much in order to maintain my cover, but I can put you in touch with Ravier.”

“You can?”  Javan’s eyes widened.  “You know where he is?  Is he safe?  What about my grandmother Hannah?  And my mother Esmeralda?”  He hadn’t had any contact with them since he left Gri weeks ago.  If they were able to reconnect with his mother, she could teach Taliya how to operate the portal.

“Return to Japheth in three days to put your Dawn Stalker’s scale on the column in Stalker Square.  I’ll make sure Ravier is there to meet you.”

“You didn’t answer my questions.”  Javan had a sick feeling in his stomach.  Ravier and Esmeralda had gone searching for Hannah after Gri was destroyed.  Vince’s elusiveness made Javan think their search had not ended well.  “Is my family safe?”

“Just be in Stalker Square in three days.”  With that, Vince spun around and marched to the door.  Before he left, he turned and said, “Be ready to implement that invisibility trick you showed me in the castle.  It will be hard for Omri to kill you if he can’t see you.”

The door closed behind him, filling the room with a heavy silence.

 

The story continues with Finalizing Details.