Weir Dragon Academy Book 1: Wings of Shadow
Linden and Brackish are on their way to Weir Dragon Academy. What new adventures await the girls as they start high school?
The window at my back leaked lemon-tinted light around my shadow and shimmered against the fawn-stained pine art case. It was the only thing I needed to bring to Niagara and Weir Academy. Inside was my hoard. A collection of pigments more precious than gems and the tools to use them.
Brackish, one of my many sisters in all but genetics, stepped in front of me with her hands on her hips. She glanced down at the case, then locked her umber gaze on my face. I stared back but at her nose.
“Seriously, Linden? That’s all?”
“Yes? Miss Hertha said to take only what we needed. I need my paints, pencils, and pastels. That’s all.”
“Oh, Linden. She only meant to say we shouldn’t overpack.”
I tilted my head, wiggled my pinkies, then tilted my head to the other side. One irresistible set of symmetrical movements cut back like underbrush infringing on a woodland trail. An abnormality, although the last being who said that to my face was dead.
“Well, she could have used those words, right?”
“She wouldn’t, though. Not with her manners. Anyway, you need clothes at school. Hair ties. Shoes. Or did you mean to wash and dry the same outfit every night to wear the next day?”
“Petie said he always wore uniforms.”
“That’s the Annex, for the littler kids. We’re going to high school.”
“Oh. What do I do now, Brackish?”
“Pack up some overalls and stuff.”
“What if I make us late?”
“You won’t. I’ll help.”
She turned and headed across the room to the closet. I grabbed my art case before following.
“Still can’t believe they call this old cavern a closet, Linden.”
She was right. The entire below-deck area of the tall ship that rescued us from the horrifying island in the faerie realm was only slightly larger.
I set my art case beside the dresser I’d used for the last three and a half years. The fawn stain clashed with the ash mauve finish. I wrinkled my nose and put it off to one side instead. Then I opened a drawer.
Inside were several of the same fit and brand of T-shirts I always wore in a rainbow of colors. Some had tiny floral prints, and others didn’t. After scooping up an armful, I realized I didn’t have luggage to put them in.
Another of my pseudo-sisters came to my rescue with an already opened empty suitcase, calling in her musical voice, “Here, Linden!”
The deep forest green nylon fabric complemented Scald’s orange hair so much that I shook my head.
“You keep that. It looks better on you.”
“I’m not about to wear a suitcase, Linden. Besides, I chose this one because it reminds me of your wood magic.”
“Well, since you put it that way, okay. I’ll take it.”
I put the shirts inside. Scald giggled, opening and closing the lid while making munching noises.
“Om nom nom! Feed me more!”
I chuckled, then turned to open another drawer. This one was full of socks, all the same brand of slouchy crews in different colors, like the shirts. No seams on the toes, either. Scald repeated her performance with the suitcase after I tossed them in. I hesitated, worried they might fall out.
“Uh, I think I’ll get the rest done myself. Thanks.”
Scald set the case on top of the dresser, which I didn’t mind because ash mauve didn’t clash with green. Then she winked.
“Suit yourself. Literally. Get it? Suit? Yourself?”
I guffawed, finally tickled by her waggling eyebrows and goofy grin. Scald was always funny but seemed increasingly nervous about whether her jokes landed well until somebody laughed. My brain never clicked on why the way it did with colors.
Relieved at last, she snagged her guitar and keyboard cases from the corner before heading toward the hallway. Afterward, I packed away the seamless underthings from my top drawer. The case still wasn’t full. It was a good thing because I still hadn’t packed everything Brackish had mentioned.
“Overalls coming through!”
Brackish had at least five pairs draped over one arm, hangers clacking as she dodged past other excited girls, most too young to start high school with us. One exception was Crystal. She darted back and forth frantically with a single dusky pink leather dance shoe in her hand. I walked away from my dresser.
“Linden, where are you going?”
“Helping Crystal, just a second.”
Behind me, rustling clothes surrounded Brackish’s sigh. I kept going, walking deeper into the closet. The floor in here was the same ashy mauve as the dressers. That explained why Crystal hadn’t seen her dance shoe. For me, it stood out plain as day.
I scooped it up, then held the multi-textured leather and canvas shoe in both hands. When I stepped in front of Crystal, she dodged around me. I moved with her. Her long black tied-back hair bounced on either side of her head like a horse’s tail.
“Linden, please move. You understand this better than most. I can’t leave without my ballet slippers, and one’s missing. It’d be like you going away without your art case.”
I lifted my hand so the shoe was at eye level. “Here.”
“Oh goodness, thank you so much!”
I let her fling her arms around me, careful to keep my arms still so I wouldn’t drop her footwear. When she finished, I held the shoe out to her again. She took it with a smile clear and crisp as ice. Which made sense—that was her element.
“Linden, hair ties,” Brackish reminded me.
“Yes. They’re by the sink.”
I followed her into the bathroom, which was about half the size of the closet. It was still bigger than Miss Saya’s old dorm room at the Gallows Hill boarding house. I tried not to worry, knowing we weren’t going there. Surely an Academy for dragons run by dragons would have more space for us in either form.
I paused in the doorway, waving at the golden bamboo stalk in the large decorative vase to one side. Faeries hung out there sometimes.
“The brownie isn’t here now, Linden.”
“I like to be nice just in case.”
“Good idea. Anyway, how many of these do you want to bring?”
I gazed at the clear container, fascinated by the contrast between its gleaming surface and the deep beige of Brackish’s skin. The elastics and the container varied in size, shape, and color, proving nearly as mesmerizing.
“Is there room to take the whole thing?”
“I guess. If you don’t mind only one or two pairs of shoes.”
“That’s fine. I kind of don’t love shoes.”
Brackish only nodded instead of reminding me I’d repeated that sentiment at least once a day since coming to the mundane and having to wear them. She must have more on her mind than usual. I pondered this as we went back to the closet. Should my mind be stuffed with worries, too?
After she stowed the hair accessory container in the bottom of my suitcase, Brackish leaned down and pulled out the low drawer containing my footwear. Miss Hertha and Miss Saya had been generous with my attire. I’d thanked them many times but felt bad for not wearing so many of the pieces they’d offered me.
“Let me guess. You want the high tops and the work boots.”
“I’ll wear the work boots, pack the high tops. But yes, you’re right. Thank you for helping me pack and knowing me so well.”
I stepped into the boots without bothering to tie the laces. Miss Saya had swapped the regular kind for elastic ones so I wouldn’t forget and trip.
“Back at you, Linden.” Brackish tilted her head, then waved at someone behind me. “Could you pay it forward by helping Zillah out? I think she’s having trouble over there.”
I nodded, then went, pretending not to notice Brackish stuffing a pair of dress flats in alongside the high tops. A year ago, I might have argued over that. Uncle Cosmo, no blood relation but an important magical shifter, had convinced me otherwise. As I thought of him, his voice came to mind, along with the conversation.
They’re only trying to care for you.
But I don’t need the things they’re offering me. What else can I do besides try to convince them?
Make a game of it.
What kind of game?
A tracking one. For me, it helps to count the kindnesses. The best part is when you realize you’ve lost track.
Can I color them instead?
As long as the method works for you, it won’t fail.
I grinned while walking out of the bathroom, coloring Brackish’s covert suitcase operation a comforting shade of brown, like soil around a new sapling.
Brackish had been right. In the bedroom we all shared, Zillah stood frowning at her bed. The particolored pillows she collected littered it. She clutched the two largest, one under each dark brown arm. After reaching her side, I gazed at them with her.
“What’s wrong, Zillah?”
“Only two of my Squishmallows will fit, and I can’t bear leaving any behind.”
“Thanks, Linden, but I need a solution right now.”
“I don’t have one, but Petrichor probably does. Why not ask him?”
A throat cleared nearby. I glanced aside to see a familiar round face wearing a smile quick as lightning, framed by shaggy brown hair in need of a trim. A pencil held it back on one side, tucked behind the boy’s ear.
“Petie probably does what?”
Zillah moved beside me. I looked up to see her hand on her cheek, half covered with the deep purple clouds of her curly hair.
“Oh! I didn’t want to bother you, Petie.”
“It’s not a bother, ever.”
“Zillah can’t bring all of her Squishmallows, Petrichor. Do you have any ideas?”
“Hmm. The main thing about them is that they’re squishy, right?”
Zillah said nothing, only picked up the nearest cutely designed pillow plush and handed it over. It was mostly sky blue with bright yellow and glittering white accents, face shaped vaguely like an animal’s with a round, piggish nose.
Petrichor turned it over in his hands three times. Then, he pressed it between them. After that, he let it go back to its original shape, chuckled, then extended his index finger and tapped the pillow’s embroidered nose.
I laughed, glimpsing the ceiling. Beside me, I heard a click as Zillah swallowed before opening her mouth to release a higher-than-normal-pitched giggle. I imagined it as a tiny lavender butterfly. Petrichor handed the Squishmallow back to her, smiling again.
“All we need is a few Zip-lock bags and a vacuum cleaner. You can bring every last one of these, Zill. I’ll make sure of it.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to. So, I’m doing it. I’ll be back.”
Zillah hung her head, curls obscuring her dusky face like fog on the lawn at twilight. I patted her shoulder because I knew she took comfort in gestures like that.
“Linden, thanks, but I want to be alone right now.”
I left, unsure why she wanted that or whether I’d done something wrong. My life was like that over the last few years after getting out from under old Ludovico’s strict rules and patterns. I looked up to see Brackish wheeling my suitcase out into the hall. She didn’t have my art case.
I dashed back into the closet, nearly falling over with relief as I saw it where I’d left it. After avoiding a tumble, I wrapped my hand around the familiar carved wooden handle and brought it through the room I’d inhabited for the last three years.
Across the hall, I spied Petie’s roommates, the twins Eshed and Uri. They leaned against the wall together. I would have waved a greeting, but Eshed might have missed that. He wasn’t completely blind anymore, something the grownups called legally blind. I wheeled my suitcase across the hall instead.
“Hi.” I waved as I spoke, knowing he saw movement easiest closer up and in front of him.
“Hello there, Linden.”
Eshed grinned in my general direction. The tiny blue dragonet on his shoulder peeked out from behind his ear, grinning as well. I found him easy to talk to because his eyes never rested on mine. Whether he knew that or couldn’t see where they were, I didn’t know.
Uri could hear fine but spoke with his hands, so I watched them sign a greeting.
“Hey Linden. You got all your art supplies?”
“Yes. I hope they have a common room at our dorm so we can work and play together like we do here in the studio.”
“We’ll see when we get there.”
“Like everything else in all three worlds,” Eshed agreed.
I looked down, counting the bags at their feet. There were two blue, three brown, and one hard case with Eshed’s etched Casio keyboard inside. Both boys had packed more than me. Something was missing. I looked again.
“Doesn’t Petrichor have any bags?”
“Says he only needs his satchel,” Eshed said.
“Headmistress Celine already has everything he needs at Weir so that satchel’s his school bag. It has his recent inventions and journal inside,” Uri signed.
“Oh no, I didn’t bring a school bag.”
A tapping sound like sea glass pebbles dropped one by one into a marble bowl sounded behind me. A voice like sunlight glinting off aqua waves chased it.
“Supplies are taken care of and sent ahead, not to worry. Petrichor made his choice based on personal preference.”
“Oh, thank you, Miss Saya.”
I relaxed, picturing what my school bag would look like in my mind without really meaning to. A leather satchel like Petrichor’s, but in a warm olive or brown shade instead of the deliberately faded denim blue he favored.
Hazy white and gray noise echoed from the bedroom’s doorway into the marble hallway. Miss Saya turned, raising one eyebrow with her opposite hand on her hip. Somehow, Uri correctly guessed her unspoken question.
“It’s Petie rescuing Zillah again,” he signed.
“With a vacuum cleaner?” Saya blinked.
“Squishmallows,” I added.
“What in the world?”
Miss Saya paced toward the doorway. I left my suitcase behind and followed, peering past her to see what she found there. My art case came with me.
The rest of my sisters stood in a semicircle around Zillah’s bunk, watching Petrichor use the vacuum to remove air from the plastic bags he’d stuffed her Squishmallows into. The cluster of plushies inside compressed, making square rainbow pancakes of Zillah’s most prized possessions.
“Brilliant work!” Miss Saya clapped twice.
“It’s not really. I got this idea from an infomercial if you can believe it.” Petrichor chuckled.
I wasn’t sure what was funny. Everyone’s favorite lightning dragon never seemed to get enough sleep, spending too many nights in front of a screen.
“You’re too humble, Petie. You’re saving my life here,” Zillah replied.
“I’m not too humble, but if I’m saving even the tiniest portion of your life, then everything’s working as intended.”
I stood watching the colorful plush items, trying to predict which colors would come out on top, the sides, or in the middle. He repeated the process with five more bags, which easily fit into the largest of Zillah’s suitcases on top of her clothes and shoes.
After compressing the last bag, Petrichor unplugged the vacuum and dashed out of the room with it. I gazed down at the suitcase as Zillah zipped it closed. When I looked up, everyone else had gone into the hall, including Miss Saya.
Zillah grabbed her suitcases, juggling them with the grace and ease I never developed. The amulet she wore looked like the ones every other hatchling child here wore. It did the same things too, letting us shapeshift while keeping clothes and bags intact, plus acting as magical identification to cross the Canadian border later.
Hers had an added feature, an enchantment to let everyone she met remember her. The large purple amethyst bounced against her shirt as she hurried through the doorway. I followed, making sure not to crowd her.
She didn’t like surprises and never had the entire time I’d known her. One thing we had in common, although my dislike was mildly evasive annoyance and hers intense bouts of fight or flight. Along with the oppressive history all the girls and the youngest boys shared.
Out in the hall, the twins had already left. Scald, Crystal, and Brackish too. A portal was open within the mark in the hallway. A whispered rushing sound wafted through it along with the soft cerulean humidity of an impossible amount of fresh water.
Petrichor stood to one side, bowing at the waist as Zillah stepped through laden with enough plum-colored suitcases to scarcely notice the gesture. He looked up as I stepped forward, face dragging with weariness.
I had a vague sense of new dimness in him, like the back of my eyelids when I closed them after staring at a light for too long.
“Whatever’s wrong, it’ll be okay,” I told him.
“I hope you’re right, Linden. Even if you’re not and things aren’t okay, I’ll live.”
I kept walking, baffled but relieved. I didn’t need to have lived his situation to know he spoke the truth about it. At the end of most days, Uncle Cosmo helped me sift through these mysteries. He wouldn’t be at Weir with us or even in this realm, and Uncle Crow didn’t understand me nearly as well.
Maybe a teacher or other adult there would. That thought led me to the transportation hub on campus at Weir Academy, drifting along in my wake like a lacy white cloud for the next talonful of months.
School is about to start for Linden, Brackish, and their friends and it’s bound to be full of challenges and adventures. Preorder your copy now to join them on September 27 when Weir Dragon Academy: Wings of Shadow is released!