Dulcinea Brown has discovered a new type of magic--flute magic. Raz, her father's new apprentice, is chasing the diabolical Society of Mages. The Society endangers the very world by bringing the dragons across the Gate between this plane and theirs. Can they learn to work together to save the friendly dragons of Ladenia--and save Ladenia City from the Society? On the way to saving the world, Dulcinea finds romance with Raz, uncovers her family’s secrets, and finally learns how to rely on herself.
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Dulcinea: The Female Harry Potter?
Dulcinea Brown, fourteen going on twenty, is about to discover flute magic--the use of flute music on the web of magic to perform spells. She is just coming into her powers of magic, and stumbles upon flutemagery, a whole new kind of magic that she then uses--under the guidance of her father’s new apprentice, Raz, who is not what he seems--to save Ladenia City from destruction by a blue dragon conjured by the wicked Society of Mages.
Raz Songssterson, twentyish, commands quite a bit of sorcerous power, but he is concealing it from Dulcinea and her father; he is using their apothecary shop to hide from the diabolical Society of Mages, on whom he has been spying. Dulcinea’s fiftyish father, Hector, is an accomplished mage himself; when he decides to find out Raz’s secret--for it is obvious to him that Raz is not what he seems--he embroils himself and his daughter in the battle against the Society of Mages.
The Society cares only for gaining power, even at the risk of tearing the very fabric of reality by gating between this plane and the dragons' plane, as Dulcinea and Raz discover; if they're not stopped, uncontrolled power transfers between the realities could turn their world into Discordia. Success requires their combined efforts--and Dulcinea’s new magic.
On the way to saving the world, Dulcinea finds romance with Raz, uncovers her family’s secrets, and finally learns how to rely on herself. Though Dulcinea is youthful as the book opens, this is not solely a YA novel (nor is Harry Potter's series); it’s a romp, but deals with deeper themes.
Dulcinea: or Wizardry A-Flute
by Shalanna Collins
It was quiet, and my footsteps echoed in the shadowy dungeon. Instead of being the narrow stone passage I had expected, the passage was four men wide and lined with smooth river stones. Either someone--many someones--had laboriously hauled and placed each, or it had been done by majickal means.
The path curved to the left. As I approached an archway, sudden flashes of light dazzled me. Something glittered off the polished stones on the walls. Too bright for a torch.
Beyond the arch lay a cavern, a ragged oval about fifty king's-feet in diameter. The castle must have been built over a natural cave. The ceiling loomed high overhead.
In the center, where the ceiling reached its apex, stood a huge cage, approximately ten by twenty king's-feet by my eyeball. Inside the cage a majickal fire burned. At least that's what I thought at first, that there was a fire--majickal because it seemed non-consuming, and fire because of its dancing points of light, although they were a brilliant blue. It took me a second look to realize it wasn't inanimate, but was . . . an expanse of lizard covered with shimmering scales.
By my estimate, the monster measured about eight king's-feet tall from ground to crown, or five and a half from dirt to shoulders. It stood on its hind legs, digging its talons into the dirt floor with both jackrabbit-built, four-toed feet. Waving in the air near Raz's foolish face were two taloned five-fingered hands--er, front legs and paws. Its head was about the size and shape of a large wolf's, and it had a long snaky giraffe neck that was also quite thin, looking as though it had no business trying to support its much-larger member. It seemingly could swivel that flexible neck most of the way around. Supporting its long S-curved neck was a stocky compact body with a relatively large sternum--the muscles, I imagined, needed to support flight--its barrel chest wider than the footings on which it sat. Its glittery scales shone, throwing off the sparklies of light that I'd mistaken for sparks from flame, looking like some exotic blue blade-metal.
The most fascinating thing about the dragon, of course, were its wings, which it had partially raised and extended in an attitude of defensiveness, but which were hampered by the metal bars of the gridded cage. Sprouting out of its midback, the two giant wings were partially translucent, batlike; each had a "hand" consisting of four wing fingers clawed at the ends, with a short free claw where they joined, and those claws grasped the bars of the brassy cage as though they were mere toothpicks to be torn away.
Why did its head bob and weave so on its snaky neck? It was looking at something just coming into view. I followed its gaze, and quickly covered my mouth as a gasp escaped.
Raz stood before the cage in the Majicker's First Stance. Muttering a power word that he must have had all prepared, Raz reached for the cage door. I couldn't believe it, but as I gaped in wonder, Raz swung open the cage door and stepped inside.
The giant Wyrm started making a questioning noise. "Hrrr, hrr, hrr?"
Raz stood in the beast's very shadow, swaying drunkenly back and forth like someone under a spell, both his hands raised in the classic "I am enchanting you" stance. In his left hand he held something aloft. Shafts of multicolored light hit the cavern floor and ceiling from something within his fist, as though he channeled sun with a prism. I could guess what Raz held, and I sucked in a breath. The beast stared at Raz's hand, and I could have sworn it was shocked, mystified, or dazzled by what it saw. Why didn't it attack?
I crept forward as far as I dared, to the very edge of the cavern. As I watched from behind a column of stone, Raz began muttering words of power. I couldn't understand them, but they seemed different from his usual majickal cant. They hung in the air, glimmering invisibly, for a moment after he enunciated them, then dissolved like glittery dust and fell useless to the dirt. The language didn't coalesce, refused to obey, wouldn't form an aura or beam of any type of majick that I could feel. The entire display of power--attempted invocation of power--seemed to succeed only in irritating the dragon.
In fact, Raz's very presence seemed to be making the dragon crazy. Its questioning "hrr?" gave way to a sound like that of cymbals clashing. Its jaws gaped, and I counted rows and rows of efficient-looking teeth. It looked like a cobra watching for the precise moment to strike. A jewel that gave control of dragonkind, my auntie's derrière. I knew Raz intended to work power through it, but something was wrong. I couldn't feel even a bare thread of majick yet. As I watched, the brilliance of the jewel went dull, and the stone's lights began to fade. Raz opened his hand, looking uncomprehendingly at the dead rock. The stone had been a faceted jewel with strange lights dancing within. But now it had changed; it was no more than a dull red rock that held but a dim glow.
As Raz swayed, confused now, the dragon thrashed and flailed about at the very ends of his ropes. Skinny ropes, I now noticed. Chains would've suited me better, but of course on a majickal creature, iron would either cause it unbearable agony where it touched, or it would instantly rust and crumble; iron couldn't be used on them, any more than a majicker could escape iron. This was a major paradox vexing majickers and their conjurations. What it meant to me was that the dragon was truly a majickal being.
Raz stood, looking dazed, as claws waved close; he swayed out of the way almost by chance, like one end of a lodestone repelling the similar end of another. As I watched, the dragon flushed--that was the only way I could interpret it, as though he were blushing from rage. Its scales went through a part of the rainbow as they warmed to a darker blue, then purpled; my jaw dropped as it finally turned an angry red all over. A puff of smoke escaped its nostrils, and I feared it would breathe out death. A faint scent of sulfur filled the air.
If Raz had dared to come so close to it--with its killing breath, if the legends and storybooks were truthful--that meant there were limits on the range for working power through the dragonstone. He'd have stayed back the maximum distance. It seemed natural that the dragon instinctively wanted to destroy that stone; that a dragon would hate it made perfect sense, if it was truly a stone that could bring dragons to this plane or send them away. In any case, this dragon was about to take revenge (this time the phrase seemed fitting) on Raz for whomever of his kind had given up his gem.
Raz must be enchanted by his own tool. Drop it, I wanted to say, drop the accursed stone and run! But my voice was frozen like my legs, cold against the stone column.
The claws lashed out at Raz. The tail wrapped itself around the cage bars as though for balance, and I noticed a blue opal speartip point tipped it. Raz barely dodged the left claws aimed at the side of his face, and I muffled my scream.
My voice was back; my legs would move. I leapt up, but I couldn't make myself clamber down and become the dragon's dessert. Confound it, I was a coward. I covered my eyes, unable to watch.
Abruptly, I heard a series of loud pops. My eyelids followed suit, popping wide. The dragon, frenzied, had snapped the ropes that had bound its lower limbs. Raz was cornered. The dragon surged forward; in a motion, it would have him pinned up against the metal grid of the cage.
"I command thee--hold! Halt! Hold!" Raz's voice had lost none of its power. It startled me such that I stood perfectly still, my body automatically responding to Raz's bossing. In a frozen moment the dragon obeyed, and Raz stood edging toward the cage door, holding the Wyrmbeast off as if by sheer force of will. Everything was as quiet as the inside of an icicle as the dragon and Raz eyed one another, wondering who would make the next move.
A ruckus of footsteps from the corridor behind me loudly shattered the nervous silence, and I ducked as far into the shadows behind the stalagmites as I could. Guards stomped into the chamber, several guards.
A gap-toothed short one squawked first from the archway. "Here, now! What's all this? Well, looky here. Our monster's done caught us a prowler, he has!"
I feared I might burst into giggles of hysteria and ducked lower. At least the dragon hadn't killed Raz. I didn't know whether the guards had heard all the commotion, or if they'd headed this way when they detected the stone's release of uncontrolled majick.
The dragon started, its neck whipping around and its head swiveling back and forth as it studied the new presences. Raz whirled as they approached, their boots clacking against the rock floor. The stone popped out of Raz's hand and cracked against one of the bars, then skittered across the dirt of the dungeon floor. One of the guards slapped his boot down on the stone. I heard Raz's groan as the man bent to scoop it up.
Instantly the dragon began to fade from its angry red shade. The sparklies stopped, muting to a jewel-toned glow. Before my amazed gaze, the dragon quickly faded to a placid turquoise blue, its underbelly simultaneously becoming a normal lizardy apple-green.
I was looking at a chameleon dragon, one whose color reflected its inner turmoil or rage as well as serenity and joy. Not only did it turn to a beautiful seashore tone with apple-green underside, but also it calmed visibly around the lips, covering its double row of teeth. It cowed down and mewled "hrr, hrr," like a happy kitten, resting its head peaceably on its rump. "Muchly obliged," said the guard, grinning so wide I could count his missing teeth from where I hid. "That'll about do it for you, won't it, then."
It was a simple matter for the guards to enter the cage now. Two of them easily re-tied the placid dragon, checking their knots carefully this time. The other three promptly collared Raz, throwing him onto the dirt in another nearby cage.
"Your cell is close to the dragon's to let it smell its next dinner. They love fresh meat." The taller, snaggle-toothed one cackled as the others chained Raz hand and foot to brackets set into the stone wall. A wizard bound in cold iron can't spellcast. "Not too long now until dinnertime."
"Curse you, and may it follow down to your children's children and so on forevermore," Raz cried. He received a faceful of spittle in answer as the guards stomped away.
After the guards were well down the corridor, still cackling, I climbed down into the cavern. Raz wasn't properly appreciative. "What's the idea, following me?" Then he looked remorseful. "I suppose it has worked out for the best. Can you get me out of these?" He waved his poor little wrists as helplessly as any flirting girl, and I had a brief feeling of power over him, which I was ashamed to admit that I enjoyed--a little.
He let out a sigh. "They ought to be gone a while, although there's no way of knowing. How I'd love to study the beast further"--his chains clanked as he pointed at the now-placid dragon, whose faceted eyes studied us cagily from afar behind its bars--"but I can't risk it. Just see what you have that's like a rod, a skinny piece of metal, something that you can use to work at these locks. I'll direct you as best I can."
I started searching obediently through my pockets, a reflex in response to one of Raz's commands, before I realized I had nothing. What I did have was my flute. I could hardly suppress a grin at the thought of how my talent would surprise him. I'd forgotten that I'd never yet had his ear long enough to broach the subject; we'd had so many problems that I'd had no opportunity to explain to him--more to the point, he hadn't given me a chance to tell him--about my new ways of fluting. Raz might be pleasantly shocked into a rare quiet. I played it coy.
"I think I know how to do it, Raz. What I'm worried about is climbing out of here. It's certainly a long way up."
He shook his head. "There's a different turn you can take at the top of the stairs to reach the carriage doors around back. It's where they used to store their coaches. I've marked the way leading out of the maze." Rubbing his wrists, he squinted in the dragon's direction. "What a creature. What an opportunity for study. What we could learn from it! But first things first, and quickly. Can you get me out of these?"
"I can't find anything to pick locks with. Besides, a child like me is so useless." I couldn't resist teasing him a bit as I drew out the flute. "I have an idea, though." I enjoyed the mystified look on his face as I began to pipe about locks and keys and the satisfaction of fitting them into each other perfectly. Click, click, went my flute keys against the polished body, and click, click went the imaginary locks in my song. I envisioned the iron melting, bending, turning soft as candy-taffy and stretch, stretch, stretching to release Raz's wrists and ankles. I sang along internally, watching in my mind's eye his cuffs open and his chains drop free.
"I see you've continued to teach yourself fluting." Raz's tone was dryer than sand. He worked his wrists a bit, and the cuffs seemed looser. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the dragon rocking back and forth on its haunches and looking at me with curiosity. I studied the dragon a little closer. Two little spiral horns like the inside of a pretty pinkish shell poked out of its face just above the eyes, over the eyeridge. A spiny, rayed fin ran down the back of its neck. Its ears were pointy like a cat's and positioned similarly on its head, their outer surface of hard blue scales and the inside edges dark blue that faded into greenish-yellow as they entered the ear canal. On the underside of its chin were a couple of whiskerlike antennae.
He was the most beautiful and fearsome thing I'd ever seen. The more I looked at him, the better I liked him. In fact, he seemed to be thinking the same about me. As I watched him, he seemed to actually bob his head in time with my tune. He? Yes, I decided; though I had no clue as to sexing dragons, this one I intuitively knew to be a "him." His emerald eyes were dodecahedral, glittering with a majickal light. I could think of nothing but the light; how beautiful the creature was, despite its fearsomeness.
I'd forgotten to think about the iron and was in tune with the dragon. In my mind, images began to form. A tall, tall mountain poking up through the white fluffy clouds. The glistening ocean breaking onto the rocks at its base. The lovely, damp, dark caves riddling its innards, where not only could you find cozy, homey spaces lined with warm mud just the right temperature for sleeping and lolling, but also hoards of bright, sparkling jewels. . . .
It occurred to me that these were pictures of (for lack of a name to put to it in my language) dragon land. The flute-majick had spoken to it! And this must be its way to communicate.
Now I saw an image of a jail cell, bondage, slavery . . . suffocation, and my wings tied! I couldn't move my wings. . . I couldn't breathe, in sympathy with whatever was being sent. Gasping for breath, hunger gnawing at my insides, and all I could think of was escape from this cavern, claustrophobic and dry as a boneyard. . . . I ran out of air and couldn't blow another note. All at once I comprehended that this was the dragon's way of telling me he wanted to get out and go home.
I'll take you home, I thought. I sent him pictures of free flight in the wild clouds, not knowing how I would do it, but now completely simpatico and convinced I could somehow find a way. I sang softly on a trill, drawing a road and path out through the wood, but when it didn't respond, sending only confusion, I realized why: it was used not to walking, but flying. The huge wings and the stubby little feet, of course; I was such a featherbrain. Immediately I shifted to a bird's eye view of escape, showing him the as-the-crow-flies way. I was flooded with light; he sent a feeling of joy and flapped his wings. Even at this distance, the wind almost knocked me over. The flute slipped loose from my lips and my hair blew back.