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Dragon's Gold

The Prophecy

A Roundear there Shall Surely be
Born to be Strong, Raised to be Free
Fighting Dragons in his Youth
Leading Armies, Nothing Loth
Ridding his Country of a Sore
Joining Two, then uniting Four
Until from Seven there be One
Only then will his Task be Done
Honored by Many, Cursed by Few
All will know what Roundear can Do

When Kelvin was a child, his mother read to him from the Book of Prophecy and he asked what the poem meant. Now he was about to learn.

The Kingdom of Rud languishes under the heel of a usurper; an evil sorcerer has taken the throne in the name of his wicked daughter. Even deep in the forest, away from all power, the people tremble and await the day of prophecy's fulfillment. It cannot come too soon: Charlain and her children are soon to lose their home to the tax collector.

But Kelvin and Jon have other plans. they have found a dragon's territory, where scales of purest gold, shed by the dragon, lie free on the ground for anyone with courage, or innocence, to take.

And the words of Mouvar the prophet echo across Rud.

Book 1 of the The Roundear Prophecy series

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Piers Anthony

Twenty-one times New York Times Bestselling Author

Piers Anthony is one of the world's most prolific and popular authors. His fantasy Xanth novels have been read and loved by millions of readers around the world, and have been on the New York Times Best Seller list twenty-one times.

Although Piers is mostly known for fantasy and science fiction, he has written several novels in other genres as well, including historical fiction, martial arts, and horror. Piers lives with his wife in a secluded woods hidden deep in Central Florida.

Robert Margroff

Robert Margroff and Piers Anthony have been collaborators since the late 1960s when they first wrote The Ring, a science fiction novel in 1968. In 1970, they wrote E.S.P. Worm, another sci-fi novel. In the 1980's they wrote their longest collaboration, the Kelvin series: Dragon's Gold, Serpent's Silver, Chimaera's Copper, Orc's Opal and Mouver's Magic.

Reviews

Spiced by some genuinely frightening moments. A persuasive performance...that should swell the ranks of Anthony's already huge audience.

Kirkus Reviews

Anthony and Margroff mix fantasy and science much as Mark Twain did in A Connecticut Yankee. Action, character development, and romance blend nicely in this captivating tale.

Kliatt Paperback Book Guide

Good quest fantasy...one of the better examples of its type.

Science Fiction Chronicle

This pleasant...fantasy adventure possesses the added irony and realism one expects from Anthony.

Publishers Weekly


4 suns

"Dragon's Gold" is a great introduction to the world of fantasy for any young reader as well as any seasoned lover of the genre. Full of action, magic, dragons, and more than a touch of humor, it's sure to pull you in from the first words and refuse to let you go until the very end. With a well thought out plot, engaging characters, and something lurking around every corner, you'll never get bored in the land of Rud!

Cholla -- Aurora: The Long and the Short of It
Excerpt

Chapter One

Dragon Scale

The road wound like a twisting dragon’s tail. Through rank underbrush and skeletal trees. Past boulders the size of cottages. Along a sparkling mountain stream bordered with high piles of debris left by the late spring floods. It did not look like the setting for the beginning of the fulfillment of a long-term prophecy.

Two slim figures walked the road, carrying travel-sacks and leading a donkey. One was sixteen, tall enough to be handsome were it not for his round ears. The other was fourteen but looked twelve, with pointed ears. Both wore the garb of Rud rustics: heavy leather walking boots, brownberry shirts, greenbriar pantaloons, and lightweight summer stockelcaps whose long tips ended in tassels of blue and green yarn. They could hardly have looked less like folk destined to commence the fulfillment of a significant prophecy.

Kelvin, the elder one, played on his mandajo as he walked, picking out the accompaniment to “Fortune Come a-Callin’,” a Rud tune of great antiquity. The three-stringed lute of Rud could be beautiful when properly evoked, but Kelvin was not playing it well. Some had magic that related to music, and some did not; some thought they had magic when they did not. Kelvin was of the latter persuasion, but he wouldn’t have cared if he had realized. His thoughts were far away.

Jon, the younger one, brushed back long yellow hair. A stranger, looking at Jon’s alert greenish eyes and large ears and face that showed no hint of a beard, would have dismissed this as a lively boy. The stranger would have been mistaken, for Jon was Kelvin’s sister. Because it could be dangerous for a girl to go alone into the countryside of Rud, the parents had tried to restrict her to the farm and village. But Jon was an adventurous sort, always eager to go out exploring. Realizing that she could not be restrained, they had finally yielded with two stern strictures: always go in company with Kelvin, and go as a boy. That suited Jon just fine, for though she would die rather than say it, she looked up to her brother, and wanted to share his activities. She also rather liked masquerading as a boy, for though her parents had been happy to have a girl, Jon herself envied the freedoms and prospects of the other sex. She had become almost letter-perfect at the masquerade, but now nature was playing on her a disgusting trick. Her hips were broadening and her breasts were swelling. It was getting harder to look the part, and it would be impossible without her solid shirt. What would she do when her rebellious front became too pronounced to conceal? She was disgusted, and the very thought put her in a bad mood.

Now Jon peered into the underbrush and up into the branches of the trees, looking for trouble. She carried a sturdy leather sling whose pocket held a carefully positioned rock of the required squirbet-braining size. Just let one of those creatures show its snoot now...!

“Fortune come a-callin’, but I did hide, ah-oo-ay,” Kelvin sang with imperfect pitch. “Fortune come a-callin’, but I did hide, bloody saber at my side, ah-oo-ay, ah-oo-ay, ay.”

“You call that old pig-gutter you’re packing a saber?” Jon demanded. She spoke with deceptive good humor, her eyes wandering over to her brother. To the dark handle of the war souvenir protruding from its worn and cracked scabbard.

Kelvin lowered his instrument. His thoughts leaped ahead to the deepening gloom and the forbidding mountain pass. “We’re not riding either,” he said, referring to another verse.

“No, but we would be if you hadn’t let that horse dealer swindle us,” Jon said. She lifted the halter and made a grimace of distaste at their pack animal. “A horse to ride would be great, but you, you jackass, had to buy a jackass!”

“I thought,” Kelvin said lightly, his attention focusing a bit, “that I could put two of them to work. You and Mockery.”

“Mockery’s the name for it!” Jon snapped. “Anyone but you would have been put off by the name, but you had to go and hand over our last two rudnas for it!”

“Jon, Jon, show faith in thy elder,” Kelvin teased. “We hadn’t the money for a horse, and Mockery was cheap. We’ll need his strong back, and yours, to pack out all the gold we’ll find.”

Jon made an uncouth noise. “If he ever lets us load! It took us half the morning to get our pitifully few supplies strapped to his ornery back. He’s got a kick like a mule! I suppose when we want our tent, he’ll start all over.”

“Not so, little brother Worrisome Wart!” Kelvin always referred to her in the masculine, maintaining the masquerade; what started as a game had soon enough become second nature. “It’s only that he’s jealous. We have the lighter loads. Smart animal, Mockery. Smart enough to know when we’re in dragon country. Anything that smart, including me and possibly ye, knows the danger.”

“Do we, Kel?” Her voice was almost pleading.

Kelvin narrowed the bluish eyes that seemed almost as strange as his rounded ears, in Rud. This was not like Jon. Usually she tried with pretty good success to appear more recklessly masculine than any ordinary boy could be. Until today she had seemed if anything too confident. What was bothering her?

“Jon, if you’re afraid—”

“Ain’t that!” Jon snapped. “Not any more than you are, anyway. But curse it, Kel, if I’m going to get et up by a dragon, I at least want a chance.”

“Few people have a chance,” Kelvin retorted. “Dragons are big and strong and mean. If you run into one, it will devour you fast. Once it bites off your head, which I’m sure it will do early on, I can promise you that you will hardly feel a thing.”

“Great!” Jon said, not appreciating the humor. “So we just stay away from it?”

“That’s all anyone with any sense does. Or,” he added, giving a slight nod at Mockery, “anything with sense.”

“But dragons have been killed, haven’t they?”

“A few times by heroes with armor and war-horses and lances. You know that, Jon. A few have fallen, but not to the likes of us.”

“But if we had a good sword, and a war-horse, and a lance—”

“We’d get et, just the same,” Kelvin said confidently. “You ever see me ride a war-horse? Or use a sword except for hacking brush? It takes training, Jon; it doesn’t just happen.”

Jon subsided into silence as they plodded on. The road was becoming narrower with every mile. The debris piles were getting higher and higher. Now the mountain walls seemed to lean inward. The sun hid its face behind the peak of the mountain to the west. The air became noticeably cooler as the bird and animal sounds became more hushed and were heard less often.

“I don’t like this place,” Jon said, looking about at the tangled masses of trees the flood had left. “It’s ugly.”

“Nobody comes here for a picnic, Jon. Riches aren’t found in the nicest places. If we’re to get gold, we have to put up with ugliness.”

Jon flushed a little and looked away. Now and then something Kelvin said did have a noticeable effect. But he wondered whether he should caution her about showing any color, that was a trait associated more with girls, and could give her away. He decided to keep quiet; Jon didn’t like to have her female mannerisms pointed out. There was a certain irony in this, because in truth she was becoming a rather pretty figure of a girl when she let herself be.

Kelvin estimated the time. It was getting to be late in the afternoon. Soon they would stop to build camp, and then early tomorrow they’d find gold. Or at least they’d search for it. If the spring floods had washed it down from the high mountains, they might find nuggets of it along the stream. That was their hope; that was what made this an adventure instead of just a chance to explore. A chance for Jon to be a boy—perhaps one of the last chances, for soon there would be no easy way to conceal her nature.

He wondered how he would feel if he knew that he was really a girl, and would have to resign himself to becoming a homemaker and never going out exploring again. He shuddered; he knew he would hate it. He wished he could at least express some sympathy for Jon, but he couldn’t; it would come out all wrong, and she would be furious.

“Gods, Kel, look what I found!”

He blinked as he strained his sight to see what shone so brightly in Jon’s hands. His eyes were not the best; if Jon’s curse was being a girl, his own was being inadequate in various ways like this. Jon had reached down into a clump of ugly brown weeds, and now held something that filled her cupped palms.

Carefully, Kelvin took it from her, bringing it close enough for a decent focus. It was a scale that could have come from a dragon’s neck. It had the heft of gold, and some luster through the grime. It could be very valuable.

“It’s a dragon scale, isn’t it? Isn’t it?” she demanded, hopping about in her excitement.

“Easy, Jon, easy,” he cautioned her. “Don’t shout or do anything to attract a dragon’s attention. This could be fresh, and—”

“Think I’m crazy?” Jon asked. Then, “It is, isn’t it? Gold that migrated to the scale from the nuggets swallowed by the dragon? It’s just as the books said! Just like the shellfish that get metal in their shells from ingesting bits of metal and then become unfit to eat! We’re lucky, oh so lucky!” She was dancing again.

Kelvin stopped her with an upraised hand. “Quiet, fool! The dragon could be in hearing distance!” For the scale of a dragon meant danger as well as wealth, and suddenly he was quite nervous about this aspect.

“Around here?” Jon whirled happily. “If that’s so, why isn’t smart-ass Mockery a-rearin’ and a-rarin’ and kicking up his heels? You know dragons shed scales! It probably happened weeks ago.”

“Yes,” Kelvin agreed. “But we can’t be sure. We can’t be sure it’s not lurking and waiting for us.”

Jon gave him a look of contempt. She had always been bolder than he. “Hah. Do you think that was just dropped?” She pointed to a pile of dried dragon dung.

Kelvin looked at the bits of white bone sticking out of the dung, and shivered. That, he thought, could be the remnant of a human being.

“We have to be careful, Jon,” he said. “We have to check around here to make sure there’s no fresh sign. If a dragon’s been around in the last day or so, we want to move out. If we don’t find fresh sign, we’ll set up the tent, cook the squirbet you bagged, eat, and get a good night’s sleep. Then, first thing tomorrow, we’ll search.” His hands felt clammy as he put the scale into a pocket of his pantaloons. The very notion of a nearby dragon gave him the cold sweats.

But Jon was already climbing a high mound of rocks and weeds and piled-up tree trunks. As usual she did not appear to have heard a word Kelvin said.