Sunday, June 1, 2008



It is June FIRST, time for the FIRST Blog Tour!
(Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we
will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The feature
author is:

and her book:

WaterBrook Press (June 17, 2008)


Donita K. Paul is a retired teacher and award-winning
author of seven novels, including DragonSpell, DragonQuest, DragonKnight,
and DragonFire. When not writing, she is often engaged in mentoring
writers of all ages. Donita lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado where she
is learning to paint–walls and furniture! Visit her website at

The Books of the DragonKeeper Series:


Visit her website.



Kale wrinkled her nose at the dank air
drifting up from the stone staircase. Below, utter darkness created a
formidable barrier.

Toopka stood close to her knee. Sparks skittered
across the doneel child’s furry hand where she clasped the flowing,
soft material of Kale’s wizard robe. Kale frowned down at her ward. The
little doneel spent too much time attached to her skirts to be
captivated by the light show. Instead, Toopka glowered into the forbidding
corridor. “What’s down

Kale sighed. “I’m not

“Is it the dungeon?”

“I don’t think we have a

Toopka furrowed her brow in confusion. “Don’t you
know? It’s your castle.”

“A castle built by committee.” Kale’s
face grimaced at the memory of weeks of creative chaos. She put her
hand on Toopka’s soft head.

The doneel dragged her gaze away
from the stairway, tilted her head back, and frowned at her guardian.
“What’s ‘by committee’?”

“You remember, don’t you? It was just
five years ago.”

“I remember the wizards coming and the
pretty tents in the meadow.” Toopka pursed her lips. “And shouting. I
remember shouting.” “They were shouting because no one was listening.
Twenty-one wizards came for the castle raising. Each had their own idea about
what we needed. So they each constructed their fragment of the castle
structure according to their whims.”

Toopka giggled.

“I don’t think it’s funny. The chunks of castle were erected,
juxtaposed with the others, but not as a whole unit. I thank Wulder that at
least my parents had some sense. My mother and father connected the
tads, bits, and smidgens together with steps and short halls. When nothing
else would work, they formed gateways from one portion to another.”

The little doneel laughed out loud and hid her face in Kale’s
silky wizard’s robe. Miniature lightning flashes enveloped Toopka’s
head and cascaded down her neck, over her back, and onto the floor like a
waterfall of sparks.

Kale cut off the flow of energy and
placed a hand on the doneel’s shoulder. “Surely you remember this,

She looked up, her face growing serious. “I was very young

Kale narrowed her eyes and examined the child’s
innocent face. “As long as I have known you, you’ve appeared to be the same
age. Are you ever going to grow up?”

Toopka shrugged, then
the typical smile of a doneel spread across her face. Her thin black
lips stretched, almost reaching from ear to ear. “I’m growing up as fast
as I can, but I don’t think I’m the one in charge. If I were in charge,
I would be big enough to have my own dragon, instead of searching for

The statement pulled Kale back to her original
purpose. No doubt she had been manipulated yet again by the tiny doneel, but
dropping the subject of Toopka’s age for the time being seemed

Kale rubbed the top of Toopka’s head. The shorter fur
between her ears felt softer than the hair on the child’s arms. Kale always
found it soothing to stroke Toopka’s head, and the doneel liked it as

Kale let her hand fall to her side and pursued their
mission. “Gally and Mince have been missing for a day and a half. We
must find them. Taylaminkadot said she heard an odd noise when she came
down to the storeroom.” Kale squared her shoulders and took a step down
into the dark, dank stairwell. “Gally and Mince may be down here, and
they may be in trouble.”

“How can you know who’s missing?”
Toopka tugged on Kale’s robe, letting loose a spray of sparkles. “You have
hundreds of minor dragons in the castle and more big dragons in the

“I know.” Kale put her hand in front of her, and a
globe of light appeared, resting on her palm. “I’m a Dragon Keeper. I
know when any of my dragons have missed a meal or two.” She stepped
through the doorway.

Toopka tugged on Kale’s gown. “May I have a
light too?”

“Of course.” She handed the globe to the doneel.
The light flickered. Kale tapped it, and the glow steadied. She
produced another light to sit in her own hand and proceeded down the steps.

Toopka followed, clutching the sparkling cloth of Kale’s robe
in one hand and the light in the other. “I think we should take a dozen
guards with us.”

“I don’t think there’s anything scary down
here, Toopka. After all, as you reminded me, this is our castle, and
we certainly haven’t invited anything nasty to live with us.”

“It’s the things that come uninvited that worry me.”

right. Just a moment.” Kale turned to face the archway at the top of the
stairs, a few steps up from where they stood.

She reached
with her mind to the nearest band of minor dragons. Soon chittering
dragon voices, a rainbow vision of soft, flapping, leathery wings, and a
ripple of excitement swept through her senses. She heard Artross, the
leader of this watch, call for his band to mind their manners, listen to
orders, and calm themselves.

Kale smiled her greeting as they
entered the stairway and circled above her. She turned to Toopka,
pleased with her solution, but Toopka scowled. Obviously, the doneel was
not impressed with the arrival of a courageous escort.

opened her mouth to inform Toopka that a watch of dragons provides
sentries, scouts, and fighters. And Bardon had seen to their training. But
the doneel child knew this.

Each watch formed without a Dragon
Keeper’s instigation. Usually eleven to fifteen minor dragons
developed camaraderie, and a leader emerged. A social structure developed
within each watch. Kale marveled at the process. Even though she didn’t
always understand the choices, she did nothing to alter the natural way of
establishing the hierarchy and respectfully worked with what was in

Artross, a milky white dragon who glowed in the dark,
had caught Kale’s affections. She sent a warm greeting to the
serious-minded leader and received a curt acknowledgment. The straight-laced young
dragon with his tiny, mottled white body tickled her. Although they
didn’t look alike in the least, Artross’s behavior reminded Kale of her
husband’s personality.

Kale nodded at Toopka and winked. “Now
we have defenders.”

“I think,” said the doneel, letting go
of Kale’s robe and stepping down a stair, “it would be better if they
were bigger and carried swords.”

Kale smiled as one of the
younger dragons landed on her shoulder. He pushed his violet head against
her chin, rubbing with soft scales circling between small bumps that
looked like stunted horns. Toopka skipped ahead with the other minor
dragons flying just above her head.

“Hello, Crain,” said Kale,
using a fingertip to stroke his pink belly. She’d been at his hatching
a week before. The little dragon chirred his contentment. “With your
love of learning, I’m surprised you’re not in the library with

A scene emerged in Kale’s mind from the small dragon’s
thoughts. She hid a smile. “I’m sorry you got thrown out, but you must
not bring your snacks into Librettowit’s reading rooms. A tumanhofer
usually likes a morsel of food to tide him over, but not when the treat
threatens to smudge the pages of his precious books.” She felt the small
beast shudder at the memory of the librarian’s angry voice. “It’s all
right, Crain. He’ll forgive you and let you come back into his bookish
sanctum. And he’ll delight in helping you find all sorts of wonderful

Toopka came scurrying back. She’d deserted her lead
position in the company of intrepid dragons. The tiny doneel dodged
behind Kale and once more clutched the sparkling robe. Kale shifted her
attention to a commotion ahead and sought out the thoughts of the leader
Artross. “What’s wrong?” asked Kale, but her answer came as she tuned in
to the leader of the dragon watch.

Artross trilled orders to
his subordinates. Kale saw the enemy through the eyes of this

An anvilhead snake slid over the stone floor of a room
stacked high with large kegs. His long black body stretched out from a nook
between two barrels. With the tail of the serpent hidden, she had no
way of knowing its size. These reptiles’ heads outweighed their bodies.
The muscled section behind the base of the jaws could be as much as six
inches wide. But the length of the snake could be from three feet to

Kale shuddered but took another step down the

Artross looked around the room and spotted another section
of ropelike body against the opposite wall. Kegs hid most of the

Kale grimaced. Another snake? Or the end of the one
threatening my dragons?

The viper’s heavy head advanced, and the
distant portion moved with the same speed.

One snake.

“Toopka, stay here,” she ordered and ran down the remaining steps.
She tossed the globe from her right hand to her left and pulled her
sword from its hiding place beneath her robe. Nothing appeared to be in her
hand, but Kale felt the leather-bound hilt secure in her grip. The old
sword had been given to her by her mother, and Kale knew
how to
use the invisible blade with deadly precision.

“Don’t let him
get away,” she called as she increased her speed through the narrow

The wizard robe dissolved as she rushed to join her
guard. Her long dress of azure and plum reformed itself into leggings
and a tunic. The color drained away and returned as a pink that would
rival a stunning sunset. When she reached the cold, dark room, she cast
her globe into the air. Floating in the middle of the room, it tripled
in size and gave off a brighter light.

The dragons circled
above the snake, spitting their caustic saliva with great accuracy.
Kale’s skin crawled at the sight of the coiling reptile. More and more of
the serpentine body emerged from the shadowy protection of the stacked
kegs. Obviously, the snake did not fear these intruders.

covered with splotches of brightly colored spit, the creature looked
like the loathsome killer it was. Kale’s two missing dragons could have
been dinner for the serpent. She searched the room with the talent
Wulder had bestowed upon her and concluded the little ones still lived.

The reptile hissed at her, raised its massive head, and swayed
in a threatening posture. The creature slithered toward her, propelled
by the elongated body still on the floor. Just out of reach of Kale’s
sword, the beast stopped, pulled its head back for the strike, and let
out a slow, menacing hiss. The snake lunged, and Kale swung her invisible
weapon. The severed head sailed across the room and slammed against
the stone wall.

Kale eyed the writhing body for a moment. “You
won’t be eating any more small animals.” She turned her attention to
the missing dragons and pointed her sword hand at a barrel at the top of
one stack. “There. Gally and Mince are in that keg.”

Several dragons landed on the wooden staves, and a brown dragon examined the
cask to determine how best to open it. Toopka ran into the room and
over to the barrel. “I’ll help.”

Kale tilted her head. “There
is also a nest of snake eggs.” She consulted the dragon most likely to
know facts about anvilhead vipers. Crain landed on her shoulder and
poured out all he knew in a combination of chittering and thoughts.

The odd reptiles preferred eating young farm animals, grain, and
feed. They did nothing to combat the population of rats, insects, and
vermin. No farmer allowed the snakes on his property if he could help it.
“Find the nest,” Kale ordered. “Destroy them all.”

The watch
of dragons took flight again, zooming into lightrockilluminated
passages leading off from this central room. Kale waited until a small group
raised an alarm. Four minor dragons had found the nest.

plunged down a dim passage, sending a plume of light ahead and calling
for the dispersed dragons to join her. Eleven came from the other
corridors, and nine flew in a V formation in front of her. Gally and Mince
landed on her shoulders.

“You’re all right. I’m so glad.”

They scooted next to her neck, shivering. From their minds she
deciphered the details of their ordeal. A game of hide-and-seek had led
them into the depths of the castle. When the snake surprised them,
they’d flown under the off-center lid of the barrel. As Mince dove into
the narrow opening, he knocked the top just enough for it to rattle down
into place. This successfully kept the serpent out, but also trapped
them within.

Kale offered sympathy, and they cuddled against
her, rubbing their heads on her chin as she whisked through the
underground tunnel in pursuit of the other dragons.

Numerous rooms
jutted off the main hallway, each stacked with boxes, crates, barrels,
and huge burlap bags. Kale had no idea this vast amount of storage lay
beneath the castle. Taylaminkadot, their efficient housekeeper and wife
to Librettowit, probably had a tally sheet listing each item. Kale and
the dragons passed rooms that contained fewer and fewer supplies until
the stores dwindled to nothing.

How long does this hallway
continue on? She slowed to creep along and tiptoed over the stone floor,
noticing the rougher texture under her feet. Approaching a corner, she
detected the four minor dragons destroying the snake’s nest in the
next room. Her escort of flying dragons veered off into the room, and she
followed. The small dragons swooped over the nest, grabbed an egg, then
flew to the beamed roof of the storage room. They hurled the eggs to
the floor, and most broke open on contact. Some had more rubbery shells,
a sign that they would soon hatch. The minor dragons attacked these
eggs with tooth and claw. Once each shell gave way, the content was
pulled out and examined. No
hatchling snake survived.

smell alone halted Kale in her tracks and sent her back a pace. She
screwed up her face, but no amount of pinching her nose muscles cut off the
odor of raw eggs and the bodies of unborn snakes. She produced a square
of moonbeam material from her pocket and covered the lower half of her
face. The properties of the handkerchief filtered the unpleasant

Her gaze fell on the scene of annihilation. Usually, Kale
found infant animals to be endearing, attractive in a gangly way. But
the small snake bodies looked more like huge blackened worms than

Toopka raced up behind her and came to a skidding stop
when she reached the doorway. “Ew!” She buried her face in the hem of
Kale’s tunic, then peeked out with her nose still covered.

minor dragons continued to destroy the huge nest. Kale estimated over a
hundred snake eggs must have been deposited in the old shallow basket.
The woven edges sagged where the weight of the female snake had broken
the reeds. Kale shuddered at the thought of all those snakes hatching
and occupying the lowest level of the castle, her home. The urge to be
above ground, in the light, and with her loved ones compelled her out of
the room.

Good work, she commended the dragons as she
backed into the passage. Artross, be sure that no egg is left

She received his assurance, thanked him, then turned about
and ran. She must find Bardon.

“Wait for me!” Toopka called.
Her tiny, booted feet pounded the stone floor in a frantic effort to
catch up.

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