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Sir Callie and the Dragon's Roost

Part of Sir Callie

Author Esme Symes-Smith On Tour
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Paperback
$8.99 US
0"W x 0"H x 0"D  
On sale Jul 30, 2024 | 432 Pages | 978-0-593-48584-2
| Grades 3-7
Reading Level: Lexile 650L | Fountas & Pinnell Z
The battle is won, but the war is far from over. In this thrilling sequel, a twelve-year-old nonbinary hopeful knight fights for the heart of their kingdom in a magical medieval world filled with dragons, shape-shifters, and witches.

Thanks to Callie and their friends, Helston seems to be changing for the better: Boys are allowed to explore their magic, and girls are permitted to train as warriors. Callie is an official Helston page, Willow in on track to become king, and Elowen and Edwyn are finally safe and free of their father. Everything is…perfect. 

Except it isn’t.  

Not in Helston, where every step forward is accompanied by a storm of opposition. Even Queen Ewella and Sir Nick are struggling against the wave of fear and anti-magical sentiment growing daily, while the encroaching threat from across the bridge looms.  

Callie isn’t foolish; they notice the suspicious glances thrown Neal’s way and hear the doubtful murmurs following Willow. They know what people think about them, too. Tolerance is not the same as acceptance, and when the fragile peace finally shatters, Callie and their friends have no choice but to leave their home and run. 

On the other side of the bridge, old secrets are revealed and new allegiances are formed that will throw into question everything Callie thought they knew about their world. Including what it means to be a hero.
After cutting their teeth on a steady diet of fan fiction in the Southwest of England, Esme Symes-Smith wandered north to Wales for their degree in literature and creative writing, then promptly migrated to Missouri after meeting their wife on Tumblr.

Esme has been a ghostwriter, an editor, a frozen-yogurt seller, and a caffeine purveyor. They now wrangle preschoolers for a living and have a severe tea problem. View titles by Esme Symes-Smith
Callie

There are dragons in my dreams. There have been dragons in my dreams ever since we nearly got eaten in Dumoor Forest just a few short summer months ago. And every single dream is the same.

Kensa, bathed in flames, waiting for me. Calling me. Whistling for me like I’m one of the witch’s wolves. My body reacts, moving toward the sound of its own accord, falling for the sweet tune that sounds like home.

Come away, little knight. You don’t belong here. Come home.

I follow the song through the shadows. Birds join the chorus, their calls harmonizing with the dragon’s song; their black-­and-­white bodies bumping against mine as they guide me through the darkness. Flock as thick as fog.

But I always wake up before the dream ends, leaving me with nothing but confusion and an emptiness I don’t understand.

This is where I want to be. Helston—­with all my wishes coming true.

I have never wanted anything else.

I should be happy.

I am happy.

Aren’t I?

Teo

 “Stay close,” Lara murmurs, and Teo trots to obey, sticking close to her side.

This is xir first mission for Dumoor, and Teo’s stomach has been flipping between nerves and excitement all day. Xe’s ready! Alis would never have let xem go if xe wasn’t . . . but it would’ve helped if Kensa had been able to feign even a little enthusiasm. Instead, the older dragon stared at xem, long and hard, with an expression Teo almost read as grief before it dimmed to a low anger that xe didn’t understand.

This was exciting! This was an opportunity to prove that xe had been worth taking in and taking up space. It didn’t matter how insistent folks were that Teo wasn’t indebted to anyone; xe knew how thin resources were stretched in The Roost and how much they risked taking in a dragon. Xe has to prove that xe’s worth the trouble.

Teo wants to fight, to defend xir new home against the threat of Helston.

And besides, it is a great honor to be chosen by Alis herself. If she believes xe’s ready, who is anyone to question her judgment?

It’s going to be okay.

Teo’s pointed ears twitch with every scrap of sound— ­a birdcall, an insect scratching at the dark bark of the trees, a horse’s footfall—­

“Wait.” Xe grabs Lara’s sleeve, forcing her to a stop; holding xir breath to listen for more.

Lara makes a motion to the others, and they all stop, waiting for Teo to tell them it’s either safe to go on or not.

Teo closes xir eyes and listens, focusing on the sounds of the forest.

“There’s ten of them,” xe whispers, counting the hoofbeats in the distance. “Ten horses, all with riders. I can hear armor. And weapons.”

Gillian curses under their breath. “Helston’s getting bolder.”

“That’s one word for it,” Lara returns grimly. Her knife is ready in her hand, freshly sharpened to a brutal point. Teo has seen what she can do with a blade, but even so . . . Ten Helston soldiers.

As the others silently ready themselves for the skirmish, Teo does the same. In the dappled shadows of Dumoor Forest, xe holds xemself steady and focuses on xir breath; the warmth rising in xir chest and spreading out from xir heart to spark into something sharp and powerful in xir throat.

Teo’s wings might not have come in yet, but today xe feels like a real dragon.

Kensa would be proud.

Teo swallows.

Kensa should be here. Kensa wanted to be here, and when Alis gave xem a mission that sent xem far away across Wyndebrel, Teo was a little afraid that Kensa’s fury would turn the whole of Dumoor to ash.

But Alis stood firm, her decision final: She needed Kensa elsewhere. And who was Kensa to refuse her?

Still, Teo wishes more than anything that the enormous shadow of Kensa’s dragon-­form would fall across the forest, even just for a moment. Just to know Kensa is watching over them all.

Especially as the sounds of the Helston riders get closer.

Gillian holds up their hand, the sign for Wait and get ready. They’re just around the corner now, so close, Teo can hear the men breathing.

Xe shivers.

Teo’s never been to Helston, never encountered the force spewing out across the bridge that everyone warns of. Teo knows xe’s lucky. Stories of Helston linger like ghosts in Dumoor.

Gillian counts down silently with their fingers as the crunch of hooves gets closer and closer, mingling with the voices of the Helston soldiers, who don’t care if they’re heard or not.

When Gillian throws up a fist, Teo’s fire collides with a rush of adrenaline.

Xe can do this.

Xe is ready.

Xe is a dragon.

For The Roost!

On Teo’s right, someone shifts into a shaggy gray wolf with glinting yellow eyes. On xir left, Lara lunges with her knife in one hand and a flame in the other. Gillian slams her magic down, ripping the ground apart beneath the horses’ feet before the soldiers even see them.

Horses scream. Men yell.

And the world erupts into chaos.

It’s so much more than Teo expected. Too many sounds, too many voices, too many flashes of magic catching on swords. Too much. Too much to think through.

Teo scrambles desperately to bring xir magic to xir fingers, but every lesson Kensa ever taught xem is gone. For­gotten. Fled from the trees like a frightened bird.

If Teo could fly, xe would flee too, but xir feet are rooted to the forest floor.

Frozen.

The sword’s blade glints in the sunlight as the soldier raises it, and Teo flings up xir arms with a yell—­the last sound xe ever expects to make.

But the blow doesn’t fall.

A choking sound, and Teo cracks xir eyes open to see Lara’s knife in the soldier’s throat and blood spilling from between the man’s fingers.

Teo is no stranger to blood but this is different. Xe’s never seen a man die before.

Xe can’t look away, watching the long moments between living and dying, like a candle snuffed out.

A shove to the chest and Lara screams, “Run, Teo!” She hurls the ball of light right into the eyes of the Helston soldier descending on them with a raised spear. “Go back to The Roost! Tell them we need help! Tell them—­”

But she never gets to finish her sentence.

Lara’s eyes go wide, her last gaze fixed on Teo, and then she falls with an arrow in her neck.

Xe can’t move.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

No one comes to help her. No one comes to help Teo. Every­one is fighting for their own lives, and everyone is ­losing.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

It was only supposed to be a handful of soldiers. That’s what the magpies said. Just a few unwelcome guests that needed to be seen off.

Something sharp zips past Teo’s head, grazing xir ear with white-­hot pain. Xe whips around, hands up, staring from arrow to archer.
★ "This page-turning second book in a rousing fantasy series that’s both an action-packed adventure and psychological study of young people persevering despite tremendous odds." —School Library Journal, starred review

"Exciting plot twists and a cliffhanger ending heighten anticipation for the next entry. A suspenseful fantasy quest driven by social themes." —Kirkus Reviews

About

The battle is won, but the war is far from over. In this thrilling sequel, a twelve-year-old nonbinary hopeful knight fights for the heart of their kingdom in a magical medieval world filled with dragons, shape-shifters, and witches.

Thanks to Callie and their friends, Helston seems to be changing for the better: Boys are allowed to explore their magic, and girls are permitted to train as warriors. Callie is an official Helston page, Willow in on track to become king, and Elowen and Edwyn are finally safe and free of their father. Everything is…perfect. 

Except it isn’t.  

Not in Helston, where every step forward is accompanied by a storm of opposition. Even Queen Ewella and Sir Nick are struggling against the wave of fear and anti-magical sentiment growing daily, while the encroaching threat from across the bridge looms.  

Callie isn’t foolish; they notice the suspicious glances thrown Neal’s way and hear the doubtful murmurs following Willow. They know what people think about them, too. Tolerance is not the same as acceptance, and when the fragile peace finally shatters, Callie and their friends have no choice but to leave their home and run. 

On the other side of the bridge, old secrets are revealed and new allegiances are formed that will throw into question everything Callie thought they knew about their world. Including what it means to be a hero.

Author

After cutting their teeth on a steady diet of fan fiction in the Southwest of England, Esme Symes-Smith wandered north to Wales for their degree in literature and creative writing, then promptly migrated to Missouri after meeting their wife on Tumblr.

Esme has been a ghostwriter, an editor, a frozen-yogurt seller, and a caffeine purveyor. They now wrangle preschoolers for a living and have a severe tea problem. View titles by Esme Symes-Smith

Excerpt

Callie

There are dragons in my dreams. There have been dragons in my dreams ever since we nearly got eaten in Dumoor Forest just a few short summer months ago. And every single dream is the same.

Kensa, bathed in flames, waiting for me. Calling me. Whistling for me like I’m one of the witch’s wolves. My body reacts, moving toward the sound of its own accord, falling for the sweet tune that sounds like home.

Come away, little knight. You don’t belong here. Come home.

I follow the song through the shadows. Birds join the chorus, their calls harmonizing with the dragon’s song; their black-­and-­white bodies bumping against mine as they guide me through the darkness. Flock as thick as fog.

But I always wake up before the dream ends, leaving me with nothing but confusion and an emptiness I don’t understand.

This is where I want to be. Helston—­with all my wishes coming true.

I have never wanted anything else.

I should be happy.

I am happy.

Aren’t I?

Teo

 “Stay close,” Lara murmurs, and Teo trots to obey, sticking close to her side.

This is xir first mission for Dumoor, and Teo’s stomach has been flipping between nerves and excitement all day. Xe’s ready! Alis would never have let xem go if xe wasn’t . . . but it would’ve helped if Kensa had been able to feign even a little enthusiasm. Instead, the older dragon stared at xem, long and hard, with an expression Teo almost read as grief before it dimmed to a low anger that xe didn’t understand.

This was exciting! This was an opportunity to prove that xe had been worth taking in and taking up space. It didn’t matter how insistent folks were that Teo wasn’t indebted to anyone; xe knew how thin resources were stretched in The Roost and how much they risked taking in a dragon. Xe has to prove that xe’s worth the trouble.

Teo wants to fight, to defend xir new home against the threat of Helston.

And besides, it is a great honor to be chosen by Alis herself. If she believes xe’s ready, who is anyone to question her judgment?

It’s going to be okay.

Teo’s pointed ears twitch with every scrap of sound— ­a birdcall, an insect scratching at the dark bark of the trees, a horse’s footfall—­

“Wait.” Xe grabs Lara’s sleeve, forcing her to a stop; holding xir breath to listen for more.

Lara makes a motion to the others, and they all stop, waiting for Teo to tell them it’s either safe to go on or not.

Teo closes xir eyes and listens, focusing on the sounds of the forest.

“There’s ten of them,” xe whispers, counting the hoofbeats in the distance. “Ten horses, all with riders. I can hear armor. And weapons.”

Gillian curses under their breath. “Helston’s getting bolder.”

“That’s one word for it,” Lara returns grimly. Her knife is ready in her hand, freshly sharpened to a brutal point. Teo has seen what she can do with a blade, but even so . . . Ten Helston soldiers.

As the others silently ready themselves for the skirmish, Teo does the same. In the dappled shadows of Dumoor Forest, xe holds xemself steady and focuses on xir breath; the warmth rising in xir chest and spreading out from xir heart to spark into something sharp and powerful in xir throat.

Teo’s wings might not have come in yet, but today xe feels like a real dragon.

Kensa would be proud.

Teo swallows.

Kensa should be here. Kensa wanted to be here, and when Alis gave xem a mission that sent xem far away across Wyndebrel, Teo was a little afraid that Kensa’s fury would turn the whole of Dumoor to ash.

But Alis stood firm, her decision final: She needed Kensa elsewhere. And who was Kensa to refuse her?

Still, Teo wishes more than anything that the enormous shadow of Kensa’s dragon-­form would fall across the forest, even just for a moment. Just to know Kensa is watching over them all.

Especially as the sounds of the Helston riders get closer.

Gillian holds up their hand, the sign for Wait and get ready. They’re just around the corner now, so close, Teo can hear the men breathing.

Xe shivers.

Teo’s never been to Helston, never encountered the force spewing out across the bridge that everyone warns of. Teo knows xe’s lucky. Stories of Helston linger like ghosts in Dumoor.

Gillian counts down silently with their fingers as the crunch of hooves gets closer and closer, mingling with the voices of the Helston soldiers, who don’t care if they’re heard or not.

When Gillian throws up a fist, Teo’s fire collides with a rush of adrenaline.

Xe can do this.

Xe is ready.

Xe is a dragon.

For The Roost!

On Teo’s right, someone shifts into a shaggy gray wolf with glinting yellow eyes. On xir left, Lara lunges with her knife in one hand and a flame in the other. Gillian slams her magic down, ripping the ground apart beneath the horses’ feet before the soldiers even see them.

Horses scream. Men yell.

And the world erupts into chaos.

It’s so much more than Teo expected. Too many sounds, too many voices, too many flashes of magic catching on swords. Too much. Too much to think through.

Teo scrambles desperately to bring xir magic to xir fingers, but every lesson Kensa ever taught xem is gone. For­gotten. Fled from the trees like a frightened bird.

If Teo could fly, xe would flee too, but xir feet are rooted to the forest floor.

Frozen.

The sword’s blade glints in the sunlight as the soldier raises it, and Teo flings up xir arms with a yell—­the last sound xe ever expects to make.

But the blow doesn’t fall.

A choking sound, and Teo cracks xir eyes open to see Lara’s knife in the soldier’s throat and blood spilling from between the man’s fingers.

Teo is no stranger to blood but this is different. Xe’s never seen a man die before.

Xe can’t look away, watching the long moments between living and dying, like a candle snuffed out.

A shove to the chest and Lara screams, “Run, Teo!” She hurls the ball of light right into the eyes of the Helston soldier descending on them with a raised spear. “Go back to The Roost! Tell them we need help! Tell them—­”

But she never gets to finish her sentence.

Lara’s eyes go wide, her last gaze fixed on Teo, and then she falls with an arrow in her neck.

Xe can’t move.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

No one comes to help her. No one comes to help Teo. Every­one is fighting for their own lives, and everyone is ­losing.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

It was only supposed to be a handful of soldiers. That’s what the magpies said. Just a few unwelcome guests that needed to be seen off.

Something sharp zips past Teo’s head, grazing xir ear with white-­hot pain. Xe whips around, hands up, staring from arrow to archer.

Praise

★ "This page-turning second book in a rousing fantasy series that’s both an action-packed adventure and psychological study of young people persevering despite tremendous odds." —School Library Journal, starred review

"Exciting plot twists and a cliffhanger ending heighten anticipation for the next entry. A suspenseful fantasy quest driven by social themes." —Kirkus Reviews

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