Return of the Dragon
YA Fantasy, 99,000 words
A real, fire-breathing dragon turns out to be only the second-most important thing Rose Gallagher discovers one fateful day in April. The dragon would change Rose’s life forever—but the odd green stone she finds in the desert threatens to bring chaos to the entire world.
Like most of us, 13-year old Rose believes dragons belong only in myths and fantasy tales. Yet the dragon she stumbles on just outside her home town of Boulder City, Nevada is no daydream—and in the face of the creature’s massive claws and rows of dagger-like teeth, it’s understandable that Rose’s first instinct is to run away screaming. As frightening as it looks, though, the dragon means no harm. And when the creature magically transforms into a young human girl called Jade, Rose realizes that she has found a new and extraordinary friend.
Jade may look like a girl Rose’s age, but she is far from normal. She speaks no English, and is dazzled every time she encounters a new aspect of the modern-day human world. Rose desperately wishes for someone to help her figure out why Jade has appeared to her—yet she cannot confide in her logical-minded father, whose ordered world has no room for magic or dragons.
Torn between wanting to keep Jade a secret and needing to find help, Rose turns to an elderly substitute teacher named Mrs. Jersey. In spite of Mrs. Jersey’s suspicious reputation around town, she turns out to be versed in the mysteries of the occult—precisely the ally Rose needs. In hopes of finding a way to communicate with Jade, Mrs. Jersey performs a mystical ritual in the remote Keyhole Canyon. There, Rose and Jade become blood-sisters, and through this mysterious bond they gain the ability to understand each other’s language.
This is when Rose realizes she has made a terrible mistake.
The strange stone she discovered in the desert is called the Harbinger—an object of unthinkable magical power that Jade has been entrusted with for the sake of all dragonkind. In her ignorance, Rose gave the stone to her father. With his subconscious mind rejecting all magic, Rose’s father seeks to destroy the Harbinger by throwing it off the Hoover Dam. Rose and Jade fly to the dam in a desperate attempt to save the Harbinger, coming a hair’s breadth from being smashed by massive jets of water from the dam’s overflow system. They recover the Harbinger, though Jade is either unwilling or unable to say what it is for.
Even the witnesses who saw Jade fly over the dam choose to believe it was a glider instead of a dragon—except for Rose’s fantasy-obsessed friend, Clay Ostrom. Clay discovers Jade’s identity, and through his carelessness, the word that there is a living dragon in Nevada reaches a dangerous figure. Soon, Rose and Jade receive an unexpected invitation from Rex Triumph, a flamboyant Las Vegas multi-billionaire who owns a dinosaur-themed casino called Lost World. In spite of their misgivings, Rose and her friends agree to meet with this mysterious mogul who seems to know more about Jade’s mission than she does.
Rex Triumph turns out to be a dragon masquerading as a human—or rather, a dreaming dragon. As he reveals to Rose and Jade, dragons once ruled the earth millions of years before mankind, creating a civilization based on magic instead of science. When their existence was threatened by the same comet that wiped out the dinosaurs, the dragons devised a plan to enter an enchanted sleep, one so deep that their very bodies merged with the elements as they slumbered. A dreaming dragon like Rex Triumph could project a phantom version of himself into the world, but Jade was the first dragon to awaken fully in 65 million years. Given to her was the sacred task to use the Harbinger to awaken the rest of her kind.
Rose is terrified of what might happen if dragons and humans fought for control of the world. Jade has no desire for such a war, yet she has been charged to carry the hopes of her people. She agrees to use the stone to awaken Rex Triumph, who plays upon her uncertainty to drive a wedge between Rose and Jade. Mrs. Jersey and Clay are no match for Triumph’s enchantments, and Jade is tricked into abandoning Rose so that she might fulfill the purpose of the Harbinger and awaken the rest of the dragons.
When all seems lost, Rose is able to use her special bond with Jade to break through Rex Triumph’s beguilement and call her friend back to her side. Yet Triumph has stolen the Harbinger for himself, and his attempts to use it cause chaos to erupt in downtown Las Vegas. Clay and Mrs. Jersey flee for their lives as the animatronic dinosaurs of Lost World come to life and run rampant through the casino, and law enforcement is powerless to restore order in the face of Rex Triumph’s magic.
Rose and Jade challenge Triumph to a duel to reclaim the Harbinger. Though Triumph is of a lesser breed than the fire-breathing Jade, he is much older and wilier. The two dragons battle over the Las Vegas strip as a sandstorm rages below, with Jade’s fiery power pitted against Triumph’s speed and cunning. The battle is decided by a factor that Triumph could never have predicted—by combining the strengths of Rose’s rational human mind with Jade’s draconian magic, the two friends create a weapon capable of bringing down even the mighty Rex Triumph. The defeated dragon returns the Harbinger to Jade, along with the burden of responsibility it represents.
Jade has a duty to her people, yet she has grown to love the world of humans, especially her new blood-sister. As Rose and Jade ponder how to solve this perilous dilemma, Rex Triumph begins to hatch a new scheme to awaken the dragons—and challenge humans for dominion of the world.