Sam, Clary’s best friend from Worbread village school, flung open his front door, a huge smile on his face.
“Hey Clary!” he yelled happily, before the door had fully opened. “Just how did you manage to save yourself yester…” his voice trailed away as he realised that it was not, in fact, Clary who stood on his doorstep, but rather two large bald men who smelled vaguely familiar, although Sam could not put his finger on what the smell reminded him of.
“Can I help you?” he asked politely, stepping back into the house and pushing the door until it was open just enough to stick his face through.
“Is your mother home, son?” one of the men said, stepping towards the half open door uninvited.
“No, she’s popped to the shops. She won’t be long. Do you want to come back in about ten minutes?” Sam told him, holding on to the door and stepping further back into the house as the man approached the top step.
Both men shared a knowing look that made the hairs on the back of Sam’s neck stand on end.
“No, that won’t be necessary,” the second man sneered, just as the first man made a lurch towards Sam who, eyes now wide with alarm, ducked completely back into the house and slammed the door. It was a heavy door and it swung shut on the fingers of the first man, effectively trapping them in the door jamb.
Sam heard a shout of pain and a lot of bad words. Grabbing his keys, wallet and phone, all of which were on the hall table near the door, Sam stuffed them into the back pocket of his jeans, then ran for the back of the house. He peered out of the back door and, when he was sure that there was nobody there, quietly opened it and took off down the garden, leaping over the bottom fence onto the path that led between the neighbouring back gardens. He turned right towards the park. He thought he stood a good chance of outrunning anyone who chased after him as he was naturally athletic due to all the football he played. Sure enough, he heard shouts behind him just as he reached the end of the path.
Sam sped up. Ducking left, he raced straight along the edge of the field that led to the wooded area rather than towards the play park which was filled with little kids and their mothers.
Two boys from his old school were on the field kicking a ball around. They were two boys that Sam’s mum did not want him to play with as they had a bit of a bad reputation for causing trouble.
“Hey Sam! Wanna play?” one of them shouted as Sam tore past them.
“Not today, mate!” Sam called back, not slowing down in the least and not even looking to see which of them had shouted. His mind was racing furiously. Who were those men? They were obviously trouble, but why? He hadn’t done anything wrong, had he? What did they want with him and – Sam now remembered – why did they smell like old dragon breath, Mrs De’ath?
He could still hear the sound of voices shouting after him and he put more pressure on his legs to run faster still. He pulled away from the field and headed into the woodland without slowing.
The two boys who had been playing football, whose real names were Oscar and Connor (but who liked, for reasons of their own, to be called ‘Big Oz’ and ‘Cannibal’) watched Sam fly past them without looking their way. They looked back to where he had come from. In their heads, the only reason a boy ran like that was because trouble was looking for him. Sure enough, they saw two large bald men running furiously after Sam, one of them clutching one hand in the other and cursing loudly.
“The old kneecaparooney?” Cannibal whispered to Big Oz, who nodded and grinned evilly, picking up the disabled arrow-shooting slingshot he’d hidden in the longer grass. He’d nicked it from his dad earlier that morning. His father, being highly aware that his son would love to fire the arrows and would probably get into a whole heap of trouble, had removed the whisker biscuit arrow rest and hidden the arrows themselves, just in case. The two boys had found a pile of ball bearings in the back of the garage and intended shooting rabbits with them when the little kids had gone, but this would be much more fun!
Rise of the Dragons is available for pre-order.
Release date 31st October 2015