The Dragonslayers

When Grizelda decides to get revenge on King Mildred, she doesn’t go halfway. She makes the fiercest dragon the kingdom has ever seen.

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“This witch really holds a grudge”

When Grizelda decides to get revenge on King Mildred, she doesn’t go halfway. She makes the fiercest dragon the kingdom has ever seen.

Now someone’s got to kill the thing. But the knights are all too frightened, which leaves the job to an old squire, a young page boy, and the most willful princess who ever strapped on a sword.

The question is, can they stop arguing long enough to face the greatest battle of all?

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Chapter 1
Making a Dragon

“Do you have the lizard snot?” asked Grizelda.

“Right here,” said Phrenella, holding up a tiny green bottle.

Midnight thunder rumbled in the distance as Grizelda rubbed her hands together with delight. “Good,” she cackled. “We’re ready to begin!”

The two witches were standing in front of Grizelda’s cottage-a thatch-roofed dwelling hidden deep in the Forest of Wonder. Golden leaves were falling all around them. Between the witches, suspended above a low-burning fire, was a huge black cauldron filled with a bubbling brew. A dozen or so goons, the strange, green-skinned creatures who did Grizelda’s bidding, lurked at the edges of the clearing.

“Let the conjuring commence!” cried Grizelda. Rolling up her sleeves, she began to wave her skinny arms over the cauldron.

“Goons, bring your ingredients!” ordered Phrenella.

As the goons lumbered forward with the things Grizelda had sent them to gather, she began to chant strange and incomprehensible words. One by one, the goons tossed their treasures into the bubbling cauldron. The fire made their shadows flicker and dance around the edge of the clearing.

The wind began to pick up. The storm was getting closer.

Phrenella stood near the fire, muttering the names of the things the goons tossed into the cauldron, as if checking them against a list. “Moondust and mildew; toad tongues, bat wings, fireflowers and wormwood… ” These were just the beginning of the list. Soon there were other things, things too strange and fierce to mention.

The cauldron began to boil more fiercely. A smell of fear and sulphur rose from the strange brew.

“No eye of newt?” asked Phrenella at last.

“Eye?” cried Grizelda. “What eye? I’m using the whole thing!”

With that she pulled a tiny lizard from her pocket. “Behold!” she cried, pointing to the squirming creature. “The dragon-to-be!”

With that, she hurled the newt into the cauldron. Raising her arms above her head, she began a new chant, her words low and menacing at first, then growing steadily louder until finally she was shrieking her incantation:

“Powers of the deep and dark,
Grizelda calls! Send me your spark-
Use my hate to fuel this fire:
Let it work my heart’s desire.
Let King lose child, as I lost mine.
Let him drink revenge’s bitter wine.
Raise the dragon, raise him now,
To fill Grizelda’s hate-born vow!”

Suddenly the storm broke. Grizelda erupted in wild laughter as bolts of lightning streaked through the jet-black sky, sending the goons scurrying for shelter. Thunder seemed to shake the trees where they stood. A shaft of lightning sizzled into the very center of the clearing-into the cauldron itself.

With a tremendous explosion the cauldron flew into thousands of pieces. For a moment all was silent. Then a tiny creature-something like a lizard, yet somehow… different-scrambled from the wreckage. Rearing on its hind legs, it spit fire at one of the goons, which ran shrieking into the forest as flames singed its pants.

The tiny dragon gave a piercing cry, then turned and race in the other direction. Soon it had disappeared among the trees.

“He not very big,” said one of the goons, sounding puzzled.

“Oh, he’ll grow,” cackled Grizelda. “He’ll grow. By spring he’ll be-remarkable!”

Grabbing her broom, she leapt astride it and soared into the darkness. Her shrieks of laughter seemed to hang in the air behind her as she vanished in the wild October sky.

Read Bruce's comments about this title

THE DRAGONSLAYERS started very differently from any of my other books. You see, back when I was a teacher I somehow got pulled into directing a big production of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, which was being put on by the entire fourth grade at my school. While I was doing this our music teacher helped me write three original songs for the show. It turned out that I loved writing songs, and I had so much fun doing it that I wanted to try it again.

The night we put on ALICE for the parents I was so excited I couldn’t get to sleep afterwards. As I was lying in bed, I saw an image in my head of a princess lifting up the edge of her skirt to reveal that she was secretly wearing army boots, then launching into a song called “Kick Up Your Heels!”

That was the first time I met Princess Willie, and I knew right away that I wanted to write a musical show about her. By the time the night was over, I had figured out who the rest of the main characters and groups in my play were going to be, and what it was basically going to be about. I kept sitting up in bed and scribbling notes to myself so that I would remember in the morning.

I spent most of my writing time over the next several months working on that play, and of course I had many surprises along the way. By the time we opened we had a fully staged show featuring 88 kids in costume, a dozen original songs, and an enormous dragon with flashing eyes who entered the auditorium from the rear for the big final battle scene.

Putting on that show was one of the most fun things I ever did. About twelve years later I decided to turn it into a book. So in the same way that you will sometimes see a book that is a “novelization” of a movie, THE DRAGONSLAYERS is a novelization of my own play. I had to change some things, of course; after all, the stage and the page are two different ways of telling a story. But the characters are basically the same, and many of the things they say in the book are exactly the same as they say in the play. A lot of what I had to fill in were the things that you would normally see in a play—details about the world the story was taking place in, and so on. I added other details as well, such as naming the king and the queen, rather than just calling them King and Queen. Overall the book is very close to the play I first wrote back in 1980.