This is the first chapter from my book Dawnsong: The Last Skyblade, available now at the Palace in the Sky Bookstore.
My name is Jessica Halloran. I’m sixteen years old and I live in Tree Shores. My best friend’s name is Talitha Casey. I’m writing all this down because there’s strange things happening and me and Talitha think someone should write it down ‘cause then if someone else finds it they’ll know what we learned and stuff.
Anyway, I knew there was something going on! I’m pretty smart about mystery things but not as smart as Talitha because she’s the super-smartest girl in our whole school!
Okay, first I had this dream.
There was this super-cute boy in it and he gave me a really heavy gold ring with a beautiful red gemstone in the shape of a heart. I knew it was a special ring because the heart had pretty golden wings around it!
When I woke up after the dream, I was still wearing the ring! I know it sounds really weird but I took it to school and Talitha saw it too. When I wore it the whole world got clearer. It was like everything was the same color as before but just more of it. I think my ring makes me stronger.
But that’s not the weirdest part!
You know how you can look through glass and sometimes it makes light really glowy and bendy? I looked through a water drop once in science class and everything was upside down! Talitha says that’s called a lens. Okay that’s super-neat, but you know what? That’s what happened to my ring! I lit a candle in my room because I love vanilla candles. My new ring was there on my dresser right by my unicorn keepsake box that I keep all my bangles and charms and stuff in. When the candlelight lit the red stone in my ring it made a map!
It wasn’t like one of those paper maps my dad unfolds in the car because he’s mad we’re lost and it wasn’t like the big map of the United States in our history class at school. This one was made of light and it was on the wall in my room all the way to the ceiling! It was mostly red lines but there were also some green and blue and brown parts in it too.
Talitha thinks the light from the candle was reflecting from inside the red stone in my ring. I think so too. But you know what’s funny? It works with fireplaces!
I went downstairs when we had a fire in our fireplace in the den and I put the ring next to it when nobody was looking and instead of the map being on my wall it was a big red globe that was floating all around me! I almost jumped out of my socks!
I told Talitha I think it’s magic, because when I shined my flashlight at the red jewel in my ring nothing happened. Well, except it was reflecting from the gold and stuff like it would normally do, but the map wasn’t there any more. So I said what if it works only with fire? That means it’s a fire ring! I wonder if it was stolen by a big nasty monster and we might have to fight it?
I know what monster fights are! They’re not like the kind of fights you have in school when some girl is talking to a guy you like, and they’re not like the kind of fights where you put on those big poofy red gloves and a bell rings.
Monster fights are the ones where its really noisy and scary and stuff gets broken and people get beat up! I told Talitha I’m not afraid. She thinks its ‘cause redheads like me have too much of a temper, but I still think she probably doesn’t want us to be around big ogres with clubs and stuff. I got in a fight once at school because I had this really neat purple pencil with a big orange butterfly where the eraser goes and this girl took it from me. Talitha was there, and I think that’s why she worries about me sometimes. I also told her my hair is more strawberry blond so it’s not like I get super mad or anything but she still said I’m still a redhead and she doesn’t want me to get in fights. I got my pencil back, though.
Me and Talitha made a secret plan to get all our friends from school together and figure all this stuff out, because when we all work together we can do anything. Talitha also said we should try to keep writing down what we see and think about so we know what’s going on, or something like that. She’s super-good at books, so I bet she’ll know what to write even if I forget.
“And dawn strolls through the garden wearing a gown sewn from fire and light.”
Sixteen miles west of the Heatherlands
Jessica Halloran thought she had experienced the worst storms before, but they were nothing compared to this. She and her friends ran with their arms over their heads towards a gloomy-looking wood shack. It was the closest shelter from the wind and the downpour. They all crowded inside and pulled the rickety door closed behind them. Gusts and blasts of rain rattled the flimsy wood.
“I told you not to touch it!” Shannon shouted, wringing rainwater out of her long dark hair.
“How was I supposed to know it would light up like that?” Ranko snapped.
“I knew it was magic,” Jessica said, turning the ring over and over on her finger.
“Where did you get that?” Alanna asked. Talitha was sitting in the corner cradling an enormous book in her arms. The lenses of her glasses were covered with water droplets and her soaked brown bangs were stuck to the rims.
“From the library.”
“What library?” Cecilia asked. “I didn’t see a library. We were at Doubler’s and then we were here!”
“I was in a library–” Talitha said almost too quietly for anyone to hear. She blushed and lifted the book to cover her face.
“Well, there you have it,” Ranko said, gesturing with one hand while brushing the water out of her short red hair with the other. “She was in a library. We’re in a shack. What’s so strange about that?”
“I’m cold,” Cici said.
“Will someone please tell me what is going on?” Shannon asked in an annoyed tone. “Five seconds ago we were all sitting at a table at Doubler’s and now we’re in a big wooden box with a door and no furniture.”
“And a book,” Jessica said.
“Oh my goodness,” Talitha said quietly, her face still hidden.
“Whatever.” Shannon folded her arms and sat in the corner with a stubborn look on her face.
“I didn’t get to finish my pizza,” Cici said. “Or my strawberry soda!”
“Okay, either this is the greatest prank of all time or we are a long way from home,” Ranko said, looking out the smudged rectangular window next to the door. The other girls crowded around. Cici stood on her toes to see. The shack was situated on the edge of an enormous green field. Far in the distance, they could all see the flat horizon of what looked like an ocean. Jessica worked to get the dampness out of her blond hair.
“What kind of plants are those?” Shannon asked.
“Barley,” Alanna replied quietly.
“Yeah?” Ranko asked, raising an eyebrow.
Alanna nodded. “That’s a barley crop. This must be a farm,” Alanna concluded. “And the closest farm to where we live is about a hundred miles.”
“Like I said,” Ranko replied.
“We’re a lot further than a hundred miles, I think,” Jessica said. “I never saw that map before. Or that weird symbol. I think it was even different from the one in my fireplace.”
“There was a map in your fireplace?” Cici asked.
“None of us ever saw anything like that before!” Shannon exclaimed. “Now we’re inside the map because Ranko just had to touch it!”
“I just wanted to see if it was solid or not!”
“Well, what difference does it make now!? We’re lost in some weird farm! How do we get back home!?”
“We can use the same map, right?” Alanna asked. She shook her head and then brushed her slightly drier short white hair back down with her fingers.
“Yeah! Except it didn’t have any dots for where we live,” Jessica replied.
“Terrific!” Shannon gestured with both hands, then she slumped back into the corner and sat with an annoyed look on her face. She looked over at Talitha, who was already on page five of the enormous book and twirling her still-soaked hair around one finger. Shannon rolled her eyes and folded her arms again.
Ranko leaned over to Jessica. “Is she going to be like that all night?” Jessica shrugged.
All six girls were startled by the sound of a rattling knock at the door.
Dawnsong: The Last Skyblade is available now at the Palace in the Sky Bookstore.