The Dragon, the Thief, and the Princess

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The Dragon, the Thief, and the Princess
The Dragon, the Thief,
and the Princess
GILLIAN BRADSHAW
THE DRAGON, THE THIEF, AND THE PRINCESS
Copyright © 2013 by Gillian Bradshaw.
All rights reserved.
First published by Greenwillow Press in 1991 and 1992 as THE DRAGON
AND THE THIEF and THE LAND OF GOLD.
First combined edition published in 2013 by BLISS GROUP BOOKS™,
a division of BLISS GROUP INC. 725 River Road, No. 32-215, Edgewater,
NJ 07020
Bliss Group Books is the global publishing imprint of Bliss Group Inc.
and has companies and representatives throughout the world.
Bliss Group Books is a trademark of Bliss Group Inc. in the United States,
the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries throughout the world.
ISBN: 978-0-9885359-2-3
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012923214
Text design by Newgen KnowledgeWorks.
First Bliss Group Books edition: March 2013
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
2% of the profits of this book will be donated to Kiva.
Contents
Part 1: The Dragon and the Thief
1. “The Gods Never Meant You to Be a Fisherman”. . . . . . 3
2. The Thief. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
3. The Dragon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
4. The Tomb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
5. The Price of a Boat. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
6. The Magician. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
7. Treasure in Disguise. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
8. Escape from Egypt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
9. Elephantine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
10. Upriver . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
11. The Belly of Stones. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
Part 2: The Princess and the Land of Gold
12. Treachery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
13. The Water Dragon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
14. Lies and Disguises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
15. How to Kill a Lie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
16. Napata. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
17. Dangerous People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
18. The Sand Dragon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
19. Meroë. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
20. The Earth Dragon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
21. The Fire Dragon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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v
by Christian Paniagua
imagined the sound of the falling earth waking it from its
long sleep; he pictured it rising, still in its bandages, outraged at his bold break-in, and seizing him. His hands began to shake.
“It’s just like a fish,” he told himself aloud, “just like a
salted fish. It can’t hurt me.”
But he stopped and sat on the clifftop, eating figs and
beans and waiting for full daylight before he went in.
When the sun was warm on his head, Prahotep took a
deep breath and slid down, feetfirst, into the dark.
Blinking in the dimness, he landed with a thump on a
floor of packed earth. The shadows around him glinted in
the light that slanted in through the hole he had made. Gold.
From all around came the yellow shimmer of much gold and
the pale shine of onyx and alabaster. He took a deep breath,
his heart pounding.
Then in the shadows, something moved. Something big.
Lights faced him: two yellow lights, like eyes. They rose,
swaying above him, and there was a hissing sound.
Prahotep gave a wordless wail of pure horror. He fell to
his knees and put his hands over his eyes. “Don’t!” he shouted. “Please, ghost, I didn’t mean it!”
“Ghost?” replied a voice—a soft, hollow voice, like the
wind talking. “I’m not a ghost, you wretched human.”
Prahotep uncovered his eyes. The yellow lights were still
facing him. The rest of the thing, whatever it was, was simply a vast black bulk in the shadows, but it was too big, he
realized, for the mummy of even the fattest man. He was so
relieved to find it was not the dead owner of the tomb facing him that he couldn’t be afraid. He simply stared with his
mouth open.
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“What are you doing here, human?” asked the voice.
“Look what you’ve done to my cave!”
Prahotep looked back at the hole he’d made. “I’m sorry,”
he said weakly. “I didn’t know it was your cave. I was trying
to dig into a tomb.”
“Well, you haven’t,” replied the voice. There was a sharp
movement of the shadows and then a sudden flash of green
and gold. The thing had moved out of the dimness into the
light. The yellow lights became eyes, golden eyes in a long,
narrow head that was a bit like a horse’s and a bit like a
snake’s; the head was on a long, curving neck, and the neck
joined powerful shoulders. There was a long, sinuous body
and folded wings. A red tongue flickered. Between him and
the way out stood a dragon. It looked up at the hole, then
looked quickly down again.
“You’re beautiful!” Prahotep exclaimed in surprise.
The dragon pulled its head down and ruffled its wings.
“Where are the rest of you?” it asked.
“How could there be more than one of me?” asked Prahotep.
“Don’t be clever!” snapped the dragon. “Where are your
friends, who helped you here?”
“I don’t have any friends,” Prahotep replied.
The dragon hissed. “I don’t believe you. You humans always come in mobs.”
“I don’t,” said Prahotep. “There was one man who told
me to come this way; he said there were tombs here. But he’s
dead now, and nobody else knows about it.”
“There are no tombs in this gully,” said the dragon.
“There’s a valley a few miles nearer the river where some
men were fussing about a while ago. I remember it, there
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12
Treachery
K
andaki woke in the middle of the night to the sound of
screaming.
She jumped out of bed and stood still in the dark, listening. Where was the noise coming from? People didn’t often
scream in the royal palace of Meroë, capital of Nubia. It was
a happy place, governed by a kind king and a good queen,
and even nightmares were uncommon.
The screams stopped suddenly, but not before Kandaki
realized that they were coming from down the corridor,
where her father and mother and their servants slept. She
pulled a shift over her head and hurried to the door of her
bedroom, the blue and gold beads strung on her hair swinging against her shoulders. There was lamplight showing
through the doors of her parents’ rooms, and she could hear
voices talking excitedly. Her father or mother must have had
a bad dream. For a king or queen to have a bad dream was
a serious thing in ancient Nubia; it might mean that some
dreadful catastrophe was going to strike the whole country.
They would call the priests to explain the dream for them
and to order prayers and sacrifices to whatever god might
turn the disaster away. Anxious to know what was going on,
Kandaki ran to the doorway of her parents’ room.
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As soon as she reached the doorway, she knew that disaster was not going to strike; it had struck already. Two of
the royal guards lay dead just inside the door of the dressing room. All around them a pool of blood showed dark and
shiny in the light of the single lamp in the corner. Another
man, a spear sticking out of his chest, was sprawled by the
entrance to her mother’s room. Kandaki put her hands to her
mouth. The world seemed to have turned upside down, and
for a moment she couldn’t think or move. Then she jumped
over the dead guards and ran to her mother’s room.
It was full of blood and people, but Kandaki’s eyes could
take in only one image. Her father and mother lay together
on the bed, holding each other, as though each had tried,
at the last minute, to shelter the other. And it was clear that
both had failed, and both were dead.
Kandaki couldn’t breathe. The room seemed to be made
of ice, and she thought she would faint. After a long age her
stunned lungs took in air in a gasp of horror. The men in
the room all looked around quickly. They were all royal
guardsmen, she saw, and one of them was Shabako, the captain of the guard. She turned to him with relief. Everyone in
the palace agreed that Shabako was the best warrior in the
guard, and the bravest. He was a tall, handsome man; when
he had become engaged to her cousin Abar, Kandaki had
felt a twinge of jealousy. Now she felt certain that he could
somehow make things right again. “Shabako!” she cried.
“What has happened? Who has done this?”
Shabako came toward her. “Princess Kandaki,” he said,
smiling pleasantly. “How convenient.” Only then did she
notice the sword in his hand, its edge dripping blood. She
caught her breath as the room turned to ice again.
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“It was you!” she gasped, so shocked and stunned that
afterward she wondered why she hadn’t fainted. “You—you
traitor!”
Shabako laughed. “Is that any way to talk to your new
king, Princess?”
All at once she stopped being frozen with horror and
became furious. “You foul, cruel, disgusting, stinking murderer! My father trusted you!” She leaped at Shabako and
tore the sword out of his hand. For a moment he was so surprised that she succeeded in getting it away from him. But
he was the best fighter in the royal guard, and she was only
a seventeen-year-old princess. He recovered from his surprise and wrenched the sword back before she could stick it
in him. Kandaki jumped at him again, tearing at him with
her bare hands, scratching as hard as she could. He grabbed
her wrists. She bit him. He swore and flung her aside; she
caught her head against the wall and slumped, momentarily stunned. One of the other guardsmen, Shabako’s secondin-command, Kashta, came and stood over her, raising his
spear. She managed to lift her head and stare straight into
his eyes. A princess of Nubia, she thought, must die bravely.
“No!” shouted Shabako. “Leave her a moment.”
“But she’s the only one of the royal family left alive,” protested Kashta. “If she stays alive, she’ll be a focus of rebellions throughout the country.”
“Possibly,” said Shabako. “But I want to speak to her
first.”
Kandaki climbed to her feet, bracing herself against the
wall. She saw, with satisfaction, that Shabako’s face was
bleeding where she’d scratched it, and his hand was bleeding
where she’d bitten it. She would let him talk to her. Perhaps
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