The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons
Ike was dying. With school about to start he’d never have the chance to tell Diego and Kashvi what was going on now. Why hadn’t he called last night?
“Well,” Mr. Changar said, “looks like it’s time to say goodbye.”
Ike looked toward the gate. In keeping with Branford tradition, Headmistress Bergman, a trim elderly woman, had come out to greet the students as they entered the school. He sighed.
“Yep,” he said. “That’s how it looks.”
He shook his head, deeply annoyed but unable to say anything. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kashvi give her father a quick hug.
But then as Mr. Changar let his daughter go, he squinted into the distance. “Well, well,” he said. “That’s certainly interesting.”
“What?” Kashvi said.
Mr. Changar pointed down 89th Street.
Ike turned and looked. On the far horizon, over the Hudson River, was a large black dot. It was interesting—also strange.
“What is it?” Ike asked.
“Don’t know,” Kashvi said.
Diego brushed his hair out of the way and squinted. “It’s a black dot,” he said. “What’s the big deal? Nothing to worry about.”
Ike wasn’t so sure. To his alarm, the dot was picking up speed and growing larger and larger by the second. It wasn’t making enough noise to be a helicopter and it didn’t look wide enough to be a plane.
But whatever it was, it was certainly something. In fact, the dot was coming so fast now most everyone else in the vicinity had noticed it, too.
“Yo,” someone cried, “is that a giant dirt ball?”
“No, it’s a tornado.”
“In New York? Not a chance.”
Ike didn’t think so either. It wasn’t tall or thin enough to be a tornado. But as the dot grew bigger, he did notice two longish spires curling off its top. And the closer the dot came, the taller the spires grew until Ike suddenly knew what they were.
“Antennae,” he whispered with a shiver.
What else could they be? Worse, it wasn’t long before Ike noticed the dot had a mouth. And atop its back was a barely discernable blur, the rapid fluttering of two powerful wings. Then all the disparate elements—the antennae, the mouth, and wings—seemed to meld together, revealing its unquestionable identity.
“It’s a bug,” Ike cried. “A locust.”
“Is it real?” Diego asked.
A day earlier, Ike would’ve said the bug was a giant robot or a clever special effect. But that was a day earlier.
“I think so,” Ike said.
“Who cares if it’s real?” a parent yelled. “It’s bigger than a subway car.”
“Cripes,” somebody else said. “We’ve gotta move.”
With the locust two blocks away, the sidewalk exploded into a cacophony of terrified shrieks and shouts as parents and kids alike ran for it, scattering lunchboxes and knapsacks as they went.
“Come on,” Diego said, tearing for the street. “We’re out of here.”
But Ike was frozen with equal parts terror and disbelief. The bug was a block away, thundering ten feet over the sidewalk as though it had been shot out of a cannon. And now that it was closer, Ike could finally make out its body in more detail—its four small front legs and two giant back ones. Its scaly, light green skin and, worst of all, its eyes. Two giant black circles, one on each side of its head—focused directly on him.
“Ike?” Diego called from behind a parked car. “Come on. Hide.”
Ike wheeled around, looking frantically up and down the sidewalk. Hide? Suddenly, there wasn’t enough time. The school door was too far away and the cars were all locked. With the raging bug seconds away, Ike knew there was only one thing that could save him …
His father’s sword.