CALEN TRIED NOT TO LOOK DOWN. Th is was the best vantage point in the east wing of the castle - a thick window ledge that looked out over both the main gate and a good bit of the Queen's Road leading up to it - but the method by which the window achieved this singularly spectacular view was by being very, very far from the ground. It was by no means the highest point in the castle, but it was still a good deal higher than Calen normally preferred to go, and if he managed to fall, he suspected he would have a disturbingly long time to scream in terror and watch the shaped hedges rush up at him from below before he died a horrible and painful death. He'd had to come, though. He wanted to catch that first glimpse of the procession as it approached, to witness the very beginning. It was like something from a story - a delegation from an enemy kingdom, bringing the prince of Kragnir to marry one of the princesses of Trelian and end a war that had been going on longer than most people today had been alive. Certainly it was the most exciting thing to happen in Calen's life in a long time. Maybe the most exciting thing to happen in his life ever, at least once he'd figured out that becoming a mage's apprentice was not going to be the whirlwind of glory and adventure he'd briefly imagined. And he was going to be here to see it, the arrival of the enemy prince and his family and whomever else princes generally traveled with, the first moments of an event that would be recorded in history books for future generations!
His heart was beating a little faster just thinking about it. Obviously it was the excitement, and not the glance he'd accidentally taken at the ground just now that was causing his insides to jump around that way. Calen took a deep breath, settled his back firmly against the edge of the window opening, and struggled to keep his eyes on the distant hills and his mind on anything other than the vast empty space to his immediate right.
There was plenty he could think about, but most of it was not espe cially pleasant. The procession was supposed to have arrived hours ago, and Calen was getting later by the second but he wasn't leaving until he got to see something. He was bound to be in trouble - more trouble, he amended - once Serek discovered that he hadn't come straight back from the royal gardens with the silverweed. Calen had picked the silverweed first, of course - he wasn't that much of a fool - but he knew Serek had expected him to return at once, and that he hadn't done. Instead, he had circled around through the kitchen entrance, run down the Long Hall, then climbed the many, many stairs to the guest suites on the eighth floor. Heavy rust-colored curtains concealed the large window, and once he slipped behind them, he was invisible to anyone who might pass by. Undoubtedly one of the soon- to- be- arriving guests would be stationed here, and servants might stop in to check that the room was ready. If anyone did see him, he'd be caught - no one would believe he was up here on the mage's business, and he'd be forced to go back and face his punishment and miss everything.
Technically, he hadn't exactly disobeyed. Serek had only implied that Calen should return directly; he hadn't actually said it. Not that this distinction would hold much weight with Serek, but it was enough to soothe Calen's conscience. Besides, it wasn't like there was anything to rush back for. Calen thought back to the argument they'd had earlier. Well, argument wasn't really the right word. Mostly it had just been Serek making pointed comments him about how lazy he was and glaring at him whenever he opened his mouth to defend himself. But he wasn't lazy. He just . . . didn't care. He didn't see the point in learning things if you were never going to do anything with them.
A flash of light caught his attention, and Calen leaned forward a tiny bit, squinting. Had that been the sun reflecting off armor? It was hard to tell at this distance. There was no way he was leaning any farther out the window, but maybe if he stretched his neck out slightly -
"I think that's the prince's escort," said a voice from directly behind him.
Calen jumped at the sudden sound and then screamed as he felt his balance desert him. He flailed uselessly at the air and had a moment to think, This is it, I'm dead, I'm falling, before he was jerked roughly back into the room and onto the floor beside the window. Heart pounding, and not from excitement this time, Calen looked up to see a girl about his own age standing above him.
"You dropped your flowers," she said, smiling innoffcently.
He gaped at her, then down at the silverweed scattered across the floor. Still breathless with fear, and now angry as well, Calen stood up. She had nearly killed him! "You! You -" he began, unable to find suitable words for what he was feeling. Swallowing, he paused to regroup.
"You -" he said again, this time pointing one shaky finger at her for emphasis.
"You're welcome," she said. "I suppose I saved your life just now. You almost fell, you know."
Calen stared at her incredulously. His eyes felt wide enough to fall right out of his head.
She looked back at him for a moment, then started laughing.
"Oh, your face -" she gasped, nearly doubled over with mirth. Calen, temporarily out of witty retorts, waited silently for her to regain control of herself.
"I'm sorry," she went on, finally."I really am. I didn't mean to startle you like that, but after I pulled you back in, you were just so funny . . ."
Calen glared at her. Funny, was he? He knelt and began gathering the fallen silverweed with violent swipes of his hands. She bent to help him.
"Leave it," he said, turning his back to her.
Excerpted from The Dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen. Copyright © 2011 by Michelle Knudsen. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.