The Seventh Element Read online

  “Not yet,” Ravi answered.

  “Well, can you call him?” Dash asked, trying to keep up with Rocket, who’d nearly broken into a run. “I think we may have found a dragon!”


  Gabriel rushed to silence Ravi’s voice, which had suddenly boomed out of Gabriel’s MTB while King Urelio spoke.

  “Um, I’m talking to him now,” Gabriel said, without really hearing what Ravi had asked. His voice sounding strained. “He isn’t exactly happy to see us again or to volunteer a tree to burn. And, um, he’s kind of glaring at me right now. I guess some of the ogres have been a real pain or whatever.”

  “Dude, I need the coordinates,” Ravi said. “Dash might be face to snout with a dragon right now!”

  “I’m doing my best…,” Gabriel said.


  Rocket led Dash farther up the mountain to an area where land had mostly flattened out. About twenty feet ahead of them, Dash saw part of the rocks move and shift, right next to a huge hole in the ground. He looked closer, thinking the rocks would be part of a dragon, but they were real rocks. The shaking was coming from the dragon below the rocks. The one who may or may not know they were there.

  “Good dog,” he whispered, slipping Rocket a treat with a shaking hand as Anna told him to.

  Instead, Dash found a rock to hide behind at a relatively safe distance (was there really a safe distance from a fire-breathing dragon besides being on another planet?) and crouched down to wait for Ravi.

  And he waited.

  And then he waited some more.

  Dash kept scanning the skies for Ravi and checking his MTB for signs of communication. So far, nothing. He didn’t want to make too much noise in case the dragon awoke, but he wasn’t sure how long he could wait here either.

  He typed off a quick message to Ravi: Any word yet?

  But Ravi didn’t answer.

  Come on, Gabriel! Dash thought.

  Now his feet were tingling from being crouched down for so long! He decided to call Gabriel.

  “Gabe!” Dash whisper-shouted into his MTB, his heart pounding. “I think I’m about to see a dragon. I’d really like to know which way to send it.”

  “Okay, okay, I got this,” Gabriel said.

  He listened to Gabriel argue with the king. He should have known the king wouldn’t give up one of his trees too easily when the time came.

  Gabriel was talking fast. “If you let us burn part of a tree—not even the whole thing—well, okay, the whole thing since we need the roots, but maybe there’s one you’re tired of looking at? If you do…we’ll give you the chair you’ve seen our friend flying in.”

  “Done!” the king agreed without hesitation.

  “Sweet!” Gabriel replied. He’d have to remember to tell Ravi to bring an extra chair down from the Cloud Leopard. To Dash, he said, “Easy peasy, dude. I’ll get the coords to Ravi.”

  Dash smiled. “Quick thinking.”

  “All in a day’s work, my friend,” Gabriel replied.

  After a few moments, the Clipper appeared above the rocks and began its descent. No doubt Ravi spotted the creature rising from the hole too. At first, all Dash could see was a row of black horns curving down a scaly spine. That was plenty.

  “Meet me on the flat rock formation forty degrees to your left,” Ravi instructed, not a minute too soon.

  He immediately saw where Ravi meant, but when he tried to go, Rocket wouldn’t budge. The dog still wanted to find its target!

  “You did it, boy,” Dash assured him, petting his back. “But we really don’t need to get any closer.” It took a few more yanks, but Rocket finally ran alongside Dash toward the ship.

  The silence was broken by a sound unlike any Dash had ever heard. It was somewhere between a roar, a scream, a hiss, and static. It was the unmistakable sound of a very angry dragon.

  Dash turned around slowly, trying not to attract too much attention. He remembered Chris said the dragons didn’t get along with other dragons, and he didn’t want to be caught in the middle of a civil war.

  A lone dragon had crawled out of the pit. Dash scanned the landscape and didn’t see any others stirring, for now. About the size of the transport ship, the beast stood on short, thick legs, its pitch-black eyes fixed right on him. With a shake of its back, two long, scaly wings stretched open. Sharp spikes stood out along the edges. The dragon reared its head at Dash, gnashing two rows of jagged teeth. With nostrils flaring, it breathed a stream of fire right at him. Dash ducked, sheltering Rocket’s quivering body with his own. He quickly realized that the flames only extended a few inches away from the dragon’s long snout. Either that was all the dragon could do, or it was just getting started. He really didn’t want to find out.

  Ravi opened the door of the Clipper. “Hurry!”

  Dash didn’t need to be told twice. He pulled a shaking Rocket into his arms and ran to the ship. Every step sent waves of pain up his legs, but he refused to give in to it. The second he closed the door behind them, Ravi took off. The dragon hunched down, then launched itself into the air after them.

  “Do you know where to go?” Dash asked, breathless. He quickly strapped in.

  Ravi nodded, double-checking the coordinates as he lifted away from the mountain. “Here goes nothing,” he said, trying his best to outfly a beast that was built to rule the skies. At least they didn’t have to worry whether the dragon would actually follow them. That proved to be a resounding yes, yes it would.

  Ravi wove through the mountain peaks, ducking and dodging the dragon’s fiery breath, before turning down the mountain. He hoped that when Ike Phillips was building the Clipper he’d thought to make the ship out of fireproof material. Somehow he doubted it. He glanced over at Dash, who was clutching the arms of his seat as the ship rolled nearly upside down. Rocket whimpered and shivered. Dash pulled the dog close. Ravi wondered who was comforting whom.

  He zigzagged his way toward the ground, trying to slow the dragon down by not going in a straight line. Still, he only narrowly avoided the bolts of fire aimed at the back of the Clipper. “Listen,” he said, glancing at the rear camera as he spoke, “I didn’t want to worry you even more by telling you this before, but I don’t think Colin’s going to give up. There’s eight of us and only one of him, but he’s super strong. We need to figure out a way to stop him.”

  Dash yelped as the dragon suddenly sped up and swooped right in front of the ship. One of its huge wings slammed into the front window. A thin crack formed on the surface. The dragon lifted its wing again, and Ravi had to dive far down and bank hard to the left to avoid another attack. He sped up to get in front of it again. He wanted to lead the dragon, not chase it.

  “I’ll figure out what to do about Colin,” Dash promised as Ravi veered out over the ocean before swinging back toward the forest. The dragon stayed hard on their tail.

  Dash forced himself to take deep breaths and think. Solving difficult problems was part of what had earned him a spot on the crew and most of what had made him captain. He just needed to focus and consider the situation from all sides, which was basically the last thing he could do in their present situation.

  The ship’s computer buzzed with an alert. They were in range of the chosen tree. “Look!” Ravi said, pointing out the side window. The elves had drawn a circle around a tree, in what looked like white chalk but probably wasn’t. The tree was one of the last ones on the eastern end of the forest, before the forest opened up to the fields of grass and wildflowers.

  In front of the tree stood a line of people and elves of various sizes. They could spot at least twenty elves with spears and buckets, Piper and Gabriel (also with buckets), two small, squat figures that Dash knew from the images on the tree must be ogres. There were also giants, one in a dress. A giant-sized pink-and-green dress. Dash blinked and looked again. A strange group of allies if ever there was one. He looked out the back window. The dragon was gone. “Uh, where’d it go?” he asked.

  Before Ravi could a