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Patrick Read Johnson and Charles Edward Pogue

In the king's castle, Queen Aislinn sat in her room. She looked out of the window with sad eyes. She couldn't see the battle, but she could hear the sound of fighting. 'The Old Code says it's wrong to kill the peasants,' she thought. 'My husband's a bad, cruel king.'
Suddenly Brok, the king's knight, ran into the room. 'Queen Aislinn, your husband's dead,' he said. 'The peasants killed him. King Freyne is dead!'
The queen listened to Brok quietly. Behind him she could see Sir Bowen. His face was tired and sad and he stood with her son, Prince Einon, in his arms.
'I'm sorry, Queen Aislinn,' said Bowen, with his head down. 'The Prince fell too.'
'Don't be sorry, Sir Bowen,' answered the queen. 'They killed Einon because of his cruel father, the king. Now, put him on my bed.'
But Einon wasn't dead. 'The crown, the crown...' he said weakly. Bowen put the crown into Einon's hands. But the queen didn't listen to him. She stood next to Bowen and looked down at her son. Then she slowly took off his shirt.
'We can't help him now,' Bowen said sadly.
The queen said nothing. She walked to the window and looked at a beautiful picture of a dragon on the wall. 'Perhaps we can, Bowen,' she answered.
'Perhaps we can...'
Queen Aislinn rode quickly. She turned her horse and started to climb the mountain behind the castle. Brok rode in front of her and Sir Bowen followed. Behind them two men carried Einon carefully up the mountain.
After a long time, Bowen heard the sound of music - a strange sad song. It came from somewhere inside the mountain. Then Einon made a sound and his eyes closed. Bowen got off his horse fast and ran to the young boy. 'Wake up! Wake up!' he shouted. 'Don't go to sleep, My King. You can't die now.
Listen to me and remember the Old Code.' Bowen then spoke quietly into Einon's ear. He talked to him about the Old Code. Einon moved his mouth and tried to repeat Bowen's words. He didn't want to die on the cold mountain.
They climbed slowly up the mountain, then stopped. The queen got off her horse and turned to the men behind her.
'This is the end of our journey. We're going into the mountain now.'
It was a cold dark place and it looked dangerous.
'Follow me. Don't be afraid,' said the queen. She walked in and the men followed her. They couldn’t see much. There was a lot of smoke and there were dead animals on the ground near their feet. Then Bowen heard the strange song again.
Suddenly the music stopped. From out of the dark somebody asked sadly, 'Are the stars shining tonight?'
'No, there aren't any stars in the sky tonight,' answered the queen.
'Is that Queen Aislinn, wife of King Freyne?' said the dragon.
'Yes, Great Dragon. The people in my country love you and the other dragons.
We're your friends.'
'No, madam,' answered the dragon. 'Men and dragons were friends for thousands of years. But things are different now.'
The dragon came slowly out of the dark and sat on the ground near the queen.
'Bring Einon here, Bowen,' said the queen.
The knight carried Einon in his arms and put him down on the ground. The dragon's face was high above him. It was very ugly - brown and black, with a large mouth, big teeth, and sad eyes. Bowen felt very afraid - he never took his eyes away from that face!
The dragon looked down at Einon. 'It's King Freyne's son!' he said. 'I hated the king. He loved killing
dragons and peasants. What do you want from me Queen Aislinn?'
'I want your help,' answered the queen. 'A peasant hurt my child in battle. Einon's not the same as his father, Great Dragon. This knight, Sir Bowen, is teaching him the Old Code. And I'm going to teach him about dragons in the future. Please help him.'
'You're asking a lot, Madam. Your son's very ill,' said the dragon.
'I know,' cried the queen. ' But he's king now. He'll be a good king. Sir Bowen and I will help him. He won't be cruel, Great Dragon.'
'He has to say that, not you,' answered the dragon. Then he looked at Bowen.
Give me your sword, Knight.'
Bowen pulled out his sword and gave it to the dragon. The dragon stood over Einon, with the sword in his hands. The boy opened his eyes. He saw the dragon and tried to move away.
'Don't be afraid son,' said the queen quietly. 'The Great Dragon's going to help you.'
'I will help you, boy. But first you have to say these words: "I won't be a cruel king. I won't kill dragons and peasants. I'll love my people and be kind to them. I'll always live by the Old Code." Now, are you ready? Repeat them after me!'
Einon was very tired, but he repeated the dragon's words. Then he fell back into Bowen's arms.
'Einon, Einon!' shouted Bowen. 'No, no! He's dead!' Bowen was very angry and tried to pull his sword away from the dragon.
But the dragon shouted, 'Knight of the Old Code. Stop! Watch me! Now!' Then he pushed Bowen's sword into his heart! A red light came out of the dragon.
He caught the light in his hands and turned to Einon. 'This light's half my heart, boy. I'm giving it to you. It'll make you strong. Enjoy a long life and always remember the words of the Old Code.'
Einon's eyes slowly opened. He felt weak, but he wasn't dead. Bowen looked at the boy, then he looked up at the dragon. 'I'm sorry Great Dragon. I was angry and afraid. Thank you.'
'You can help Einon now Sir Bowen. Teach him the Old Code well. Never forget my words.'
Before Bowen could answer, the dragon went back into the mountain.
Everything was dark and cold again. Nobody spoke - they listened to the sound of the strange, sad music.

Source: New English Digest (retold by Joanna Strange for Penguin Readers)




Queen Aislinn watched the battle from her window.


The Queen's husband was killed in the battle.


There was a picture of a horse on Queen Aislinn's wall.


Prince Einon and his mother rode to the mountain.


A sound of music came from inside the mountain.


The dragon was afraid of Bowen.


King Freyne was a bad cruel king.


The dragon gave half his heart to Einon.