Part I: The Belt of Deltora
1 The King
2 The Belt of Deltora
4 The Forge
5 The Enemy Strikes
6 Friends to the Death
Part II: Under the Shadow
9 The Secret
12 The Wennbar
13 The Nest
14 The Dark
15 The Lilies of Life
16 The Topaz
The Deltora Book of Monsters
Preview: The Golden Door
About the Author
Venture into Deltora
Jarred stood unnoticed in the crowd thronging the great hall of the palace. He leaned against a marble pillar, blinking with tiredness and confusion.
It was midnight. He had been roused from his bed by shouts and bells. He had pulled on his clothes and joined the crowd of noble folk surging towards the hall.
“The king is dead,” the people were whispering. “The young prince is to be crowned at once.”
Jarred could hardly take it in. The king of Deltora, with his long, plaited beard and his golden robes, had died of the mysterious fever that had kept him to his bed for the last few weeks. Never again would his deep, booming voice be heard in the hallways of the palace. Never again would he sit laughing in the feasting hall.
King Alton was dead, like his wife, the queen, before him. The fever had taken them both. And now …
Now Endon will be king, Jarred thought. He shook his head, trying to make himself believe it. He and Endon had been friends since they were young children. But what a difference there was between them!
For Endon was the son of the king and queen, the prince of Deltora. And Jarred was the son of a trusted servant who had died in the king’s service when Jarred was only four years old.
Jarred had been given to Endon as a companion, so that the young prince would not be lonely. They had grown up together, like brothers. Together they did their lessons in the schoolroom, teased the guards, and persuaded the cooks in the kitchens to give them treats. Together they played in the vast green gardens.
The other children who lived in the palace — the sons and daughters of nobles and servants — kept to their own rooms and their own parts of the grounds. As was the palace custom, Jarred and Endon never even saw them, except in the great hall on feast days. But the two boys did what they could to entertain themselves.
They had a secret hiding place — a huge, hollow tree near the palace gates. There they hid from fussy old Min, their nursemaid, and Prandine, the king’s chief advisor, a tall, thin, sour man they both disliked.
They practiced archery together, playing a game called “Aim High,” where the first to shoot an arrow into the topmost fork of the hollow tree would win.
They invented a secret code and used it to pass messages, jokes, and warnings to each other under the noses of their teachers, Min or Prandine.
Jarred would be hiding in the hollow tree, for example, because Min wanted him to take a dose of the fish-oil medicine he detested. Endon would walk by, and drop a note where he could reach it.
The message looked like nonsense, and no one in the palace could guess the meaning if they picked up a note by accident. But the code was simple.
All you had to do to decode a message was write down all the letters in a line, leaving out “EL” wherever it appeared.
Then you divided the letters into words that made sense.
DO NOT GO TO THE KITCHENS. MIN IS THERE.
As Endon and Jarred grew older there was less time for games. Their days were filled with tasks and duties.
Much of their time was spent learning the Rule — the thousands of laws and customs by which the royal family lived. The Rule governed their lives.
They sat — Endon patiently and Jarred not so patiently — while their long hair was plaited and twined with golden cord, according to the Rule. They spent hours learning to hammer red-hot metal into swords and shields. The first king of Deltora had been a blacksmith and it was part of the Rule that his art should be continued.
Each late afternoon they had a precious hour of free time. The only thing they were not allowed to do was to climb the high wall that surrounded the palace gardens, or go through the gates to the city beyond. For the prince of Deltora, like the king and queen, never mingled with the ordinary people. This was an important part of the Rule.
It was a part that Jarred was sometimes tempted to break. But Endon, quiet, dutiful, and obedient, anxiously begged him not even to think of climbing the wall.
“It is forbidden,” he would say. “And Prandine already fears that you are a bad influence on me, Jarred. He has told my father so. If you break the Rule you will be sent away. And I do not want that.”
Jarred did not want it, either. He knew he would miss Endon sorely. And where would he go if he had to leave the palace? It was the only home he had ever known. So he tamed his curiosity, and the city beyond the wall remained as much a mystery to him as it was to the prince.
The sound of the crystal trumpets broke into Jarred’s thoughts. He turned, like everyone else, towards the back of the hall.
Endon was entering between two rows of royal guards in pale blue uniforms trimmed with gold.
Poor Endon, Jarred thought. He is grieving.
He wished that he could be beside his friend, to comfort him. But he had not been summoned. Instead, Chief Advisor Prandine stalked at Endon’s right hand.
Jarred looked at Prandine with dislike. The advisor looked even taller and thinner than usual. He wore a long purple robe and carried what looked like a box covered by a gold cloth. As he walked, his head poked forward so that he looked like a great bird of prey.
Endon’s eyes were shadowed with sadness and he looked very small and pale in his stiff silver jacket with its high, jewelled collar. But he held up his head bravely, as he had been taught to do.
All his life he had been trained for this moment. “When I die, you will be king, my son,” his father had told him so many times. “Do not fail in your duty.”
“I will not fail, Father,” Endon would answer him obediently. “I will do what is right, when the time comes.”
But neither Jarred nor Endon had thought the time would come so soon. The king was so strong and healthy that it had seemed that he would live forever.
Endon had reached the front of the hall now, and was mounting the steps to the platform. When he had reached the top, he turned and faced the sea of faces.
“He is so young,” a woman near Jarred breathed to her neighbor.
“Ssh,” the neighbor warned. “He is the rightful heir.” As she spoke, she glanced nervously in Jarred’s direction. Jarred did not recognize her face, but he realized that she knew him and feared he might tell Endon that her friend had been disloyal. He looked away quickly.
But now the crystal trumpets were sounding again and a low, excited murmuring had begun in the crowd.
Prandine had put his burden down on a small table beside the throne. He was sweeping the gold cloth aside to reveal a glass box. He was opening the box and taking out something that shone and glittered.
The magic Belt of Deltora. The crowd gave a hissing sigh, and Jarred, too, caught his breath. He had heard about the Belt since his earliest childhood, but he had never seen it before.
And here it was, in all its beauty and mystery — the ancient object that for thousands of years had kept Deltora safe from invasion by the evil Shadow Lord who ruled beyond the Mountains.