Chapter 1

Dan knew all he had to do was open his eyes, and the dragon would close its mouth. That’s how all bad dreams ended. Then why could he not open his eyes?
The dragon nudged Dan’s shoulder.
Dan slapped its nose. When he pulled his hand away, snot dripped from his palm. Ew!
Dan squirmed away from the dragon’s hot breath. He draped his arm over his face. Did dragons moo?
Again, the dragon nudged his shoulder.
Dan opened his eyes. It was his sister, Page, and their guardian cow, Iris.
Iris flapped her wings. “Get up. We have to get you back to the Hidden Kingdom.”
“I need more sleep,” Dan moaned.
“Come on.” Page shook his arm. “My sabatons are glowing again. Danger is coming. We’ve got to get out of here!”
Iris set her hoof beside him on the bed. “Bopar’s army has surrounded the transport tunnel at the playground. More soldiers are joining them every minute. You and Page must get back to the Hidden Kingdom before more of them arrive and try to stop you.”
Page adjusted her bow and arrows over her shoulders. “Remember Grandfather? We’ve got to rescue him from the Prison of the Shadows!”
The prison! Dan sat up and kicked off his blanket. How could he even think of sleeping when they were still trapped? “Where are Mom and Dad?”
“They’re keeping watch around the house.” Page went to Dan’s bedroom door. She waved for Iris to follow her. “We’ll wait for you out here while you get dressed.”
After the door latched closed, Dan opened his nightstand drawer. His flashlight lay next to the crystal key stone and the opened scroll. He didn’t want Bopar’s army to see his light turn on, so he grabbed his flashlight. He then flipped it on and shone it on the stone and scroll. Once again, he read the note they had found in the treasure box about an hour ago.
This key stone opens the secret passage from the mouth of the dragon’s den in Kraków, Poland, to the Prison of the Shadows. Use it wisely.
Dan still wore the Scarlet Vest. He slipped the stone inside the pocket. “Don’t worry, Grandfather,” he whispered. “We’ll get you out.”
He quickly dressed then left his bedroom. Iris and Page stood outside the door.
“Yooooou go in front,” Iris said. “I’ll stay back here to protect Page from Bopar’s army.”
Dan’s heartbeat pulsed inside his throat. “Can’t we stay together?”
“The Scarlet Vest will protect you,” Iris said. “It not only helps you fix the tunnels, but it also makes you invisible to your enemies. Page doesn’t have that gift, so I will stay with her while you fix the transport tunnel.”
Dan placed his hands on his chest. He pressed his fingers into the velvet material of the Scarlet Vest. “It makes me invisible? Wow! That’s so cool!”
“We must hurry,” Iris said.
The three rushed down the stairs and to the back door. Dan put his hand on the knob.
“I wish I had something to keep me invisible.” Page’s voice trembled a little.
“I wish you did too,” Dan said. “But try not to worry. Your sabatons will warn you if danger is coming. And—we’ll help each other. We’ll be OK.”
Iris moved past him. “Hang onto your brother,” she said to Page. “When yooooou do, you’ll be invisible to your enemies too.”
Dan cringed. He did not want his little sister to hold onto him all the time. But before he could say so, Page grabbed his arm.
“I feel safer already,” she said.
Iris poked her head out the front door. She looked in every direction. “There’s nothing moving out there except the wind in the trees.”
Page blew out a large breath of air. “Good.”
“Let’s go.” Dan looked in every direction then stepped outside. He climbed down the porch steps.
The others followed.
Dan did not see or hear anything amiss, but the moment her hoofs touched the sidewalk, Iris said, “Run!”
Dan ran across the grass. He ran past the trees and toward the road. Twice, he heard Iris’s gallop behind him. And once Page’s hand slipped from his grasp. But each time, he did not look back. He did not even stop for an extra breath until they reached the playground.
 He crouched behind a yellow car that was parked across the street from the playground. Page and Iris crouched behind it too.
Dan peered through the darkness. Bopar’s army, in their black-and-silver uniforms, circled the playground. They stood about ten feet apart from one another with their silver knives straight out in front of them. Two of the knives were aimed toward where Dan hid.
Dan shivered. He tried not to imagine how sharp the blades were.
Iris mooed softly. Her barn breath warmed Dan’s face. “I’ll watch out for you from here while the two of you go to the swings. Wave to me after you fix the tunnel; then swing to the Hidden Kingdom. Most importantly, don’t let go of Page—no matter what. You’re the only one who can keep her safe. You understand?”
Dan cringed. He stared at the circle of soldiers. “Can they hear us even if they can’t see us? Or feel me if I bump them?”
“Yes,” Iris said. “Now go!”
Dan bent his knees as though he were at the start of a race. Then looking away from the soldiers’ sharp blades, he grabbed Page’s hand, and the two charged toward the widest opening.

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