Today, A Few Words is pleased to present an excerpt from the book The Dragon Shield by author Dianne Lynn Gardner. Read on to find out more about this wonderful YA novel.
“And you say that when you got to the mountain, he was tied. But the scouts saw him run free. Why is that?” He turned to his son, flames in his eyes. “Why, Ian? Why did you let him go if you knew he had power over the dragon?”
What am I going to say? The kid cried and I felt sorry for him, because that’s what happened. “Dad…”
The air was unbearably stiff.
“Man,” Ian beat his fist on the table and stood. “Stop it, Dad. This isn’t right.”
“No, it isn’t, Ian,” Alex said as he swirled around to face him. “Why did you let him go?”
“What does it matter–why?”
“Because you’re in a world of hurt if I can’t convince Amleth you aren’t a traitor, that’s why. Answer my question so I have something to tell him. Why did you let Daryl go?”
Their eyes locked on one another’s. Ian stammered for words, trying to put his thoughts together. “I tried to be tough on Daryl, but he wouldn’t talk and it just made me angry. I was afraid I was going to hurt him.”
“Hurt him? Ian, the kid ‘tames’ a dragon that sets fire to the forest, burns villages, kills men, women, and children– and you’re afraid you’re going to hurt him? He’s the enemy, Ian. What do I tell the Kaemperns, now? That my son was afraid he might hurt the enemy?”
For a brief instant, shame flowed through Ian like a surge of molten lava.
“I’ve never killed anything but a wild pig, Dad. And that was the last time I was in the Realm. How could I hurt a kid, a little boy? He can’t be more than twelve years old. It’s not in me, Dad. I had him, I had my sword at his throat and I couldn’t do it. All I saw was a half starving child.” Ian swallowed. “I guess I did feel sorry for him, but I pitied him even more. He’s alone out there. I know what it’s like to be that alone, that afraid.”
“I don’t believe it.” Alex wiped his brow with his hand, turned and paced. “Your pity didn’t help him be any less alone now than he was before.”
“No. But at least he knows…” Ian stopped. Blurt it out, go ahead, tell him. “At least he knows someone cares. At least he isn’t totally abandoned, like I was.”
Alex’ eyes widened.
“I don’t care what you think any more, Dad. That’s the way it was. I hated you. I hated you because you left me. Daryl feels the same way. Only he’s so alone out there he hates everyone. He can’t even look kindness in the eye, that’s how alone he is. And I know what it’s like because of you.”
Alex’s mouth opened, but he didn’t speak.
“Yeah I blame myself for leaving you behind, but only because I’m sick of hating you. I’ll take the blame for what you did. You wanted to be a hero. Why couldn’t you have been my hero just once? Why couldn’t you have saved me? Why couldn’t you have just dropped that cursed sword and taken me home like a real dad would have?”
Alex said nothing but the pain in his eyes dug into Ian’s heart. What am I doing?
“This isn’t right, Dad–me yelling at you. It’s not supposed to be like this. None of this is supposed to be happening.”
“It’s OK, Ian. I deserved that.”
Ian buried his head in his hands and sat down again, throwing his elbows on the table. “What was I supposed to have done?”
“The right thing would have been to bring him here to us. The Kaempern judgment is just.”
“You don’t get it. They rejected me, Dad. I couldn’t come back. They were shooting at me. They had us cornered under a rock. The kid was still tied up, defenseless. I had no way to protect him. They were going to kill us both. I did what I thought was the right thing. My only thought was survival. What would you have done?”
“Before you ask for any more pity for you or that Daryl kid, let me explain something to you. We’re at war. You never served in the military but I have– so take my advice and don’t back talk, and don’t give me any more excuses. When you’re out in the field, you trust no one but your own platoon. You can’t trust the kid down the block. They could be wired. They could blow you up. That Daryl is on the dark side. We don’t know for sure whom he works for, but there’s more to him than what meets the eye. He’s the enemy. How can you expect the Kaemperns to trust you if you feel sorry for him? What would happen if you had to kill that kid in battle? What would you do?”
The question stung.
“You sit there wondering what you’d do, but I tell you, there isn’t time to think…” Alex snapped his fingers in Ian’s face. “…You have this much time to react. A split second. That’s all the time you have to make a choice. And your choice could mean your life and the lives of hundreds of good, honest people. People who are on your side–people who would defend you with their lives.”
Ian stared into his father’s eyes looking for the man he used to know but Alex Wilson wasn’t there. Alex Wilson was at war, fighting for a people that had discredited Ian. Ian couldn’t join him. Ian wasn’t a warrior– he had failed every test.
“I wish I could change everything.” Ian whispered.
About the Author
Dianne Gardner is both an author and illustrator living in the Pacific Northwest. She’s an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the National League of American Pen Women. She has written YA fantasy novels as well as articles for national magazines and newspapers and she is an award-winning artist.
Find out more about Dianne and the Ian’s Realm Saga at: