Thanks to the folks at Crown Books for Young Readers, here's an extract from Lou Anders' Nightborn. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
Karn Korlundsson is a gamer. Not a riddle solver. But in order to rescue his best friend, Thianna Frostborn, he will need to travel to the faraway city of Castlebriar (by wyvern), learn how to play a new board game called Charioteers (not a problem), decipher the Riddle of the Horn, and tangle with mysterious elves. Meet Desstra. She’s in training to join the Underhand—the elite agents of the dark elves. When she crosses paths with Karn, she is not all that she appears to be. Everyone is chasing after the horn of Osius, an ancient artifact with the power to change the world. The lengths to which Karn will go in the name of friendship will be sorely tested. Who knew that solving a riddle could be so deadly? The novel includes instructions for playing the board game Charioteers. Visit ThronesandBones.com for additional games, maps, character profiles, and more!
“Greetings, Mouse,” said the dragon with a smile.
Karn’s hand instinctively dropped to the pommel of his sword. Orm’s large eyes followed the motion. The dragon’s pupils narrowed. Karn realized how useless Whitestorm would be against the enormous creature. Orm could roast him alive or swallow him whole before his blade even cleared its sheath. He forced his fingers to relax, staring back at the dragon and waiting to see what would happen next. The dragon’s response was the last thing he’d expected.
“Your pardon, Karn Korlundsson,” the great linnorm said, the rumble of his humor echoing off the coliseum walls and setting all the stonework vibrating, “but you should see your face.”
“My face? What?” stammered Karn. His cheeks burned as he realized the dragon was having him on. He felt both relieved and embarrassed. “You mean you’re not—?”
“Hungry?” said Orm with a wicked smile. He laughed again. “No, why would I go through the bother of fetching you all the way from Bense just to eat you? Don’t flatter yourself you’re that appetizing a meal, young Norrønur.”
“I guess I can live with not being tasty,” Karn said. “But why bring me here? What do you want?”
“Why, to talk,” said Orm.
This was another surprise in a day full of surprises. And while Karn was glad not to be on the dinner menu, conversations with dragons weren’t exactly known for being risk free. Still, he was curious. One question presented itself immediately. He gestured to the wyvern where it perched in the coliseum stands, watching them both.
“How did you get that one to catch me? How did you even know where it was?”
“Good, good,” said the dragon, clapping his foreclaws. “Intelligent questions. I expected no less, and I do hate being disappointed. I used the Horn of Osius, of course.”
“You know its name now?” said Karn, who didn’t recall that Orm had ever been told the name of Thianna’s horn. Also, the horn had been destroyed. Thianna said that Orm had taken care of it quite permanently. “But didn’t you—?”
“Swallow it? Yes.” Orm shifted, showing off more of his long, snakelike body. “And I have learned a good deal about the hateful thing since I devoured it. I discovered its name, a bit of its purpose. . . . . I have even absorbed a little of its power. What is it that they say? You are what you eat, after all.”
“You can do that?”
Orm just flicked a tongue in response.
“Okay, you can. So you used the horn’s power to call this wyvern. Then you compelled it to go after me.”
“Bravo. I knew not roasting you in flame was a good idea.”
“I’m glad you think so,” said Karn. “But why? I don’t mean about the roasting. I mean the fetching and talking bit.”
For answer, the dragon ran his great tongue around inside his lips, worrying at something lodged in his enormous teeth.
Orm leaned forward—Karn jumped a little at this; he couldn’t help himself—and thrust his snout close to Karn’s own face. Karn felt the heat and rotten-meat smell of the dragon’s breath. Then Orm curled an upper lip aside and spat something out sideways at the boy’s feet.
Karn looked down at the saliva-drenched mess before him. It looked like clothing, no, armor—black leather armor with yellow patterns. He recognized it.
The dark elves—actually they had pale white skin but dark eyes and dark hair—were a subterranean species who dwelled deep under the mountains in southwestern Norrøngard. They were rarely seen on the surface. In the past, open wars had been fought between the humans of Norrøngard and the elves of the Svartálfaheim Mountains. These days there was an uneasy truce, and encounters with the elves were rare.
“The Svartálfar came poking around my coliseum,” explained Orm. “Something they haven’t dared do in centuries.”
“So you ate them?” said Karn, his stomach churning at the thought.
“Naturally,” said the dragon. “Though not before I learned what they were after.”
“The horn?” guessed Karn. “You’re sure? They told you?”
The dragon smiled. “Well, as you yourself know from experience, I do so like to play with my food.”
Karn gulped. He did know this was true.
“They must have been disappointed to learn you’d swallowed the only horn.”
“I’m sure they were,” said the dragon. “Though I supposed that in a way they found what they were looking for.” Orm chuckled at his own joke. “But that’s not the important bit,” he continued. “What you should be paying attention to is this: they didn’t believe it was the only one.”
Karn stood straighter at this revelation.
“Not the only one? You mean there’s another Horn of Osius? Oh no!”
“Oh no, indeed.” Orm’s eyes narrowed. The previous horn had allowed Thianna to get inside Orm’s mind. This had made the dragon uncomfortable. But if someone were to really master the horn, they might be able to control Orm the way he compelled the wyvern. The great linnorm had destroyed a city and devoured legions of soldiers in his youth. If the dark elves—or anyone else—got their hands on another horn, they could turn Orm into a weapon of devastating, unstoppable power.
“Before it went down, my food told me that a second group of dark elves have been sent south to search for another horn.”
Orm nosed at the gnawed armor at Karn’s feet. Karn looked again and saw a metal scroll case amid the debris.
“Open it,” said the dragon.
Frowning at the wet, warm spit on its surface, Karn took the scroll case and popped the lid. Reaching in, he withdrew a yellowed parchment.
“Can you read?” Orm asked.
“Yes,” said Karn, irked by the question, even though literacy wasn’t common among the Norrønir.
“Then do so now.”
Karn squinted his eyes at the rune markings. The daylight was fast ending, and the setting sun had dipped past the edge of the high coliseum walls.
“It’s a little dark.”
Orm spat again, and Karn really did jump as a small fireball erupted from the dragon’s mouth. The flame burned where it struck, a wad of sizzling, molten spit that cast a circle of reddish light.
“Is that adequate?” Orm asked with mock politeness.
“It’ll do.” Glaring first at the dragon for startling him, Karn turned his attention to the paper. Neither the parchment nor the writing was particularly old. So it wasn’t ancient or valuable. Someone had copied this down recently. That meant what it said was more important than what it was. He studied the words.
“It looks like a riddle,” Karn said.
“Read it aloud,” Orm commanded.
Karn did so.
“First to a Castle in the Briars,
Where ends all of life’s desires.
Over Oak and under Corn,
There to seek the soundless Horn.”
Karn looked up.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “What does this mean?”