Hannah Grace and The Dragon Codex

Book 1, Hansu Chathri












WARNING! STOP READING NOW!

This book contains dangerous secrets, deep mysteries, and a recipe for insanely decadent delicious brownies. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stop reading now.

Go on, pick up another book, perhaps an easy reader or coloring book. Or better yet, watch some TV. Yes, some TV would be nice. This is your last chance.

Ok, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Be it known that by reading these words you have accepted the challenge of unlocking the secrets of The Dragon Codex. The most powerful forces of Good and Evil have already been alerted to your presence. They will stop at nothing in their quest to enlist you or destroy you. Congratulations!

Stay focused, stay smart, stay true—even the purest of heart can be corrupted. Remember, help is available if you ask and don’t forget to clean up when you’re done.

The path is open; your journey is begun. Where you go from here, is up to you. Don’t forget to bring snacks.

-The authors of The Dragon Codex


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Chapter 1

What Good Is Karate If You Can’t Punch Someone in the Face?

 

Faster. I have to run faster! Hannah Rumi Grace felt hot breath on her neck and smelled the putrid mixture of raw garlic and blood. This guy needs to floss. She banked hard left, like a jackrabbit, down yet another tattered hotel hallway. Only this time there was a dead end. An electric shock of terror ripped down her spine. The man behind her laughed a grinding laugh.

Then she saw something. Hope? Up ahead, is that a doorway? A cold hand touched her shoulder. Hannah bolted down the hall, banked hard again, through the doorway, up a narrow staircase. She pushed the door at the top of the stairs and was out on the roof. Sunshine flooded her eyes and a soft fresh breeze tickled her face.

         "Knock knock,” said a voice from behind her that sounded like a chainsaw slicing through rubber bands.

Hannah’s brain pounded against her skull. Too terrified to turn around, she ran to the ledge and peered over. It was twenty stories down. But the man behind her…she was not going to be taken alive. She stuck one foot over the edge…

Then a thought grabbed her mind and wouldn’t let go like a kid grabbing its parent’s leg: I’ve done this before.I’ve been here before. This exact ledge of this very building, with the very same lunatic chasing me. Actually, now that she thought about it, she had done this several times, and each time she had jumped.

Well, not this time.

Hannah swallowed hard. It felt like there was a dry rat in her throat. Petrified, but determined, she turned around to face her attacker. But when she saw him, she wished she hadn’t. His thick, matted hair was covered in dried blood. Scars formed a tic-tac-toe pattern across his whiter than Wite-Out face.

The man bit his bottom lip and squeezed his hands into massive fists. Then he raised them in the air, and waved them like he just didn’t care.

Is he dancing? thought Hannah. Why is he so bad at it? The man took out something from his pocket. Now what’s he doing? He’s juggling something. What are those? Daggers? Chainsaws? No, kittens. They’re fluffy, round kittens. Aww, they’re so cute.

As he juggled, the kittens became pages and the pages became a book. When Hannah looked at the man’s face again, he had transformed too.

To Hannah’s great surprise, the awful mess had become Miss Lyons, the school librarian! She was holding a large book in front of her for Hannah to see and she had a conspiratorial twinkle in her eye.

The book she was holding, looked like an atlas except that at its center was a winged, swirling disk, like a galaxy. Strange symbols, spirals, zigzags, and more danced freely around the slowly revolving galaxy.

Hannah reached out to touch the book, but Miss Lyons held it back. She looked at Hannah and said, “8:10 Hannah. Remember, 8:10 is time for school.”

         BRRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGG!!!

Hannah’s head sprang up from her desk, a textbook page stuck to her cheek, affixed by the glue-like power of her drool.    

         “Ok, class,” said Mr. Koenigsberg, the history teacher. “That’s it for today. There will be a quiz next Friday on Chapters One, Two, Three, Four, Seven, Nine, Thirteen, Fourteen, Twenty-One, and Twenty-three. And Twenty-Seven.”

The entire class groaned as they scooped up their books and poured out the door in a fifth-grade flood. Everyone that is, except Hannah Rumi Grace, who was still stuck halfway between waking and her dream, like an elevator stopped between floors.

         “I see you’re really into history,” Mr. Koenigsberg said, gesturing to Hannah’s cheek. “Or should I say, history is really into you.”

Hannah felt her cheek. She blushed, then ripped the paper off and managed to take a thin layer of skin with it.

         “Ow. Yes, sir…I mean…no, ma’am…I mean…huh?”

         “Are you getting enough sleep?”

         “Yes,” said Hannah, hastily gathering up her stuff. “I just…I’m fine. Have a nice day.”

Hannah raced down the hall to her locker. She thought about the dream she just had. Could that really be the book her dad had been asking her to find for the past three months? She realized she barely knew anything about what he wanted her to find, only that it was old and everyone seemed to want it.

Hannah paused at her locker and parsed the dream. Maybe this time was different. Everything about the dream seemed more real. More vivid, more alive than any of her other dreams about it, but what was up with that guy turning into the librarian Miss Lyons? And why did she say school starts at 8:10? School didn’t start until 8:30.

Hannah dug her phone out of her locker. Thoughts mixed in her head like Halloween candy. Some were sweet, some sour and some, she didn’t know what they were.

Hannah so badly wanted to tell her dad, but she was also afraid it would be another dead end, just like the last ten dreams where she saw a book.

Hannah held her phone in her hand, deciding what to do, when it rang.

         “Hey, sweetie,” came the voice of her father, Detective John Grace of the NYPD. “Where have you been? I’ve been trying to contact you for hours.”

Hannah thought her father sounded unusually stressed.

           “I was in class, dad. They generally frown upon phone calls during class. Why? Is everything alright?”

         “Make sure you’re in class, on time, today, ok? Very important.”

         “Is there something I should know, Dad?”

         “I’ll tell you when you get there. Just don’t be late.”

Hannah clutched the phone tightly in her hand. She thought how it was the best and the worst having your dad as your karate instructor. Today she wasn’t sure which it would be. Hannah paused as she considered her next words carefully. “Hey, I think…maybe…I might have found a clue to that book you wanted me to find. For real this time.”

Detective Grace’s salmon with arugula pesto and avocado on French country bread sandwich fell to the floor. “What did you see?” he asked nervously.

         “Miss Lyons, the school librarian was handing me a book. It had like some kind of a glowing disk thingy at the center, like a galaxy, with wings. And there were like these weird spirals and stuff kind of slow dancing around it.”

Detective Grace should have been ecstatic would have been ecstatic, if he hadn’t gotten that phone call an hour ago…and there was no doubting what his daughter had seen, what with her HSAM, highly superior autobiographic memory, what most people would call “photographic memory.”

Hannah could recall minute details of paintings she had seen years ago, conversations, and even the entire text of Dante’s The Divine Comedy word for word, in its original Italian.

Detective Grace spent the last three months hoping his daughter would help him find the stolen codex, but now, because of that phone call, he wanted her to forget the whole thing. How could they have found her so fast? He wondered.

Of course he always knew there was a real possibility they would find her if she discovered The Dragon Codex, but he figured it would take them months and she would be properly trained to fight them. Now what was he supposed to do?

          “I’ll be there as soon as I can,” her dad said, gathering up his karate gear. “We’ll start class early, today. Get Matthew and Gemma and don’t talk to anyone until I get there.”


Detective Grace hung up the phone, took his “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug and threw it against the wall, smashing it into a million pieces. “They’re not ready. They’re just not ready.”

Hannah got to her locker and grabbed her karate uniform. She was lost in her thoughts, wondering why her dad seemed so stressed, when she turned around and, Bam!

Standing in front of Hannah, wearing an expression like she had just been sprayed by a skunk, was Hannah’s worst nightmare: Tania Hartman and her gang of nasties. Tania, who was as pretty as she was mean, had taken an active dislike to Hannah when, in third grade, Hannah got a feeling and warned Tania to be careful of flying footballs and the next day a football hit Tania in the face at recess. She blamed Hannah.

          “Eww. You touched me,” dismissed Tania.

           Ugh, thought Hannah. Not now.

         “Next time you fall asleep in class, try not to snore. Loser.”

Three of Tania’s gang snickered. Hannah tried not to let their taunts bother her. They’re the losers, right?

           “Had one of your witch dreams again?” Tania added.

By now, students had gathered like zebras to see which of their friends was being eaten by the lions. Hannah wanted to shoot flaming eye beams at Tania, or at least come up with some kind of sharp and funny comeback, but she was afraid. Afraid of what, exactly, she didn’t know. She kept her head down, packing her karate bag.

         “What’s the matter,” Tania continued taunting, “forgot how to talk?”

Just then, mercifully, Assistant Principal Dr. Joseph Von der Stain, turned the corner and saw the commotion. “What’s going on here?”

         “Hi Dr. Von der Stain, sir,” cooed Tania cheerfully. “We were just helping Hannah get her stuff together.”

Von der Stain eyed Tania and her gang suspiciously. “That’s very nice of you, Tania. But why don’t you all get your books and go home. School’s over for today.”

         “Let’s go, girls,” said Tania. Then leaning in so she was almost nose to nose with Hannah, Tania added, “see you tomorrow. Witch.”

Tania and her friends moved on, laughing down the hall. Hannah stared angrily at her bag with her karate uniform and fight gear. What good is this stuff if I wimp out when I need it most?

Hannah slung her gear over her shoulder and headed to the gym, but as she walked past Dr. Von der Stain she suddenly and strangely felt a stunning coldness, like someone had just thrown open the door to a meat locker.

She glanced at the assistant principal, who appeared not to notice anything unusual, nor did anyone else for that matter. But then Hannah saw a dark shadow, approximately the shape and size of Von der Stain appear behind him, and then disappear right into him.

Hannah shuddered from head to toe. What the…? She whipped her head around, did anyone else just see that? But everyone was acting normal, including Vice Principal Von der Stain.

         “Yes?” asked Von der Stain. Hannah realized she must be staring at him like a lunatic.

         “Oh, nothing, nothing,” she said peering around him for the shadow, but the strange chill had passed and the shadow was gone. “I gotta go.”

         Am I still dreaming? Hannah wondered as she ran fast as she could to the school gym for karate class.


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Chapter 2

Be Ready for Anything



         “Harder! Kick harder!” Hannah’s dad, John Grace, barked the karate commands. “Left roundhouse, right front snap kick, right kake geri! Now jumping side kick, drop to your knees, front sweep. Kick higher!”

This is insane, thought Hannah as she and her best friends, Gemma Stevens and Matthew Martinez, the only other two students in her dad’s after school karate class, did their best to keep up.

The besties were used to crazy workouts from Sensei Grace, as they called Hannah’s dad in class, but this was beyond anything any of them had ever endured, and that included last month’s test to become black belts.

Their shouts filled the cavernous school gym. Hannah wiped the sweat pouring from her forehead and glanced over at Gemma and Matthew who were doing the same thing. It made Hannah feel at least a little bit better knowing she wasn’t alone in her struggle. But it didn’t make it any easier.

Gemma flipped her ponytail of long black hair from her face. Adopted at age two from China, she felt like an outsider even in her own home, but she always felt good when she was in karate, something about all that punching and kicking helped get her feelings out without having to talk to about it.

She glanced over at Hannah’s long brown hair with its red and gold highlights. I wish I had Hannah’s hair, she thought.

I wish I had Gemma’s hair, Hannah thought.

I wish this class would end already, thought Matthew.

         “Faster! Kick harder! More!” How much time do we have? Hannah’s dad wondered. He watched with dismay as Matthew tried to perform a block and accidentally punched himself in the face. This is bad.

Hannah’s dad poured on the push-ups, sit-ups, mountain climbers, and more. He pounded grappling and takedown drills into them until they were near collapse. He just hoped it would be enough. It had to be.

         “Ok, yame,” John Grace finally said, speaking the Japanese word for ‘stop.’

         “Thank God!” said Matthew, falling to the floor and kissing it repeatedly.

         “Control yourself Matthew,” said Sensei Grace. “Let’s take a short break. I made maca balls and hot chocolate.”

Hannah gave a small applause. She didn’t know anyone but her dad who could take dates, almonds, chocolate, and chia seeds and make them into something totally yumlicious.

The friends and Sensei sat together in a small circle enjoying the break and wolfing down their snacks like they hadn’t eaten in days.

When Hannah, Gemma, and Matthew were halfway through, Sensei finally spoke. He wasn’t prone to big speeches or long-winded explanations and his students knew this, so when he did speak, they listened.

           “There’s a reason I was working you so hard today,” he said, tugging tensely at the ends of his black belt. “I’ve long sensed a certain…malevolence at this school.”

        “Me too,” said Matthew trying to lighten the mood, “mostly in math class.”

        “This morning, that feeling was confirmed,” Sensei continued, ignoring Matthew. “As you know, I recently asked Hannah to help me find a book. An ancient and powerful book called The Dragon Codex. Today, I believe, Hannah found that book.”

Hannah gulped. Her mind raced. That’s a good thing right? Then why does he seem so worried?

But Hannah’s answer would have to wait. At that moment, the gym doors burst open and in walked Vice Principal Von der Stain, his face sullen and twisted as a bag of screws. He leveled a stiff gaze at Sensei.

        “Everyone, please rise and bow,” Sensei said as he bowed to the vice principal. Hannah and Gemma immediately stood up and bowed too. Matthew stood up to bow, but fell over his karate bag.

         “To what do we owe this honor?” Sensei asked politely.

         “Mr. Grace, can I speak to you a minute?” Von der Stain made the “come here” gesture with his index finger. Hannah hated that. Nothing good ever happened after the “come here” gesture, especially when you threw in ‘can I speak to you for a minute?’ That was super extra bad.

         “Of course,” said Hannah’s dad cheerfully. But before he went with Von der Stain, Sensei leaned in toward his students and whispered, “be ready for anything.”

Sensei followed the vice principal into the hall where they had a heated finger-pointing exchange. Hannah couldn’t make out what they were saying, but her dad’s face was turning red.

Sensei burst back through the gym doors. “Karate class has been cancelled. Permanently.”

         “What?” said Hannah.

Gemma and Matthew gasped.

         “It’s just as I suspected,” said Sensei through gritted teeth. “We are all in great danger. The Bowling League of Big Evil has found us.”

Hannah, Gemma, and Matthew shot each other puzzled glances. None of them had ever heard of such a group and they had no idea why Sensei would say such a strange thing.

Matthew tried to suppress a laugh. “Seriously? Is that bad?”

         “The Bowling League of Big Evil is responsible for just about every drop of evil ever committed on the Earth. They invented the Bubonic plague and deep fried s’mores on a stick. The Dragon Codex is their key to power. They will stop at nothing to get it and Von der Stain is involved.”

         “Why are they called the Bowling League of Big Evil?” asked Matthew.

        “They love bowling, but they love evil even more,” said Sensei searching the room tensely.

Hannah gulped. She told them about the shadow that passed into Von der Stain.

        “That confirms it,” said Sensei. “I thought I could protect you.”

         “What are we supposed to do?” asked Matthew, breaking out in a cold sweat.

         “Get ready.”

Just then, the gym lights blew out.

         “Try to remember everything I ever taught you!” shouted Sensei.

A bitter blast of wind blew the gym doors off their hinges. Hannah, her dad, and friends ducked as the doors flew over their heads. The wind whipped into a tornado inside the gym. It sucked the four of them up and threw them hard to the ground. 

Sensei fought the wind and managed to stand up. He extended his arms outward, palms facing the gale. Then Hannah, Gemma, and Matthew watched him do something they had never seen him do before. A bluish bolt of energy shot from his palms forming a shield around the friends that diverted the blasting wind.

 What the…? thought Hannah. Since when could he do that?

         “Hurry!” shouted Sensei. “You’ve got to get out of here. Look for the codex between the ‘literary lions.’”

Hannah had no idea what her father meant, and at this moment it didn’t matter to her even if she did. All she wanted was to help him.

Sensei knew however, they could not help him now. “Go!” he shouted. “I can’t hold them off for long!” His face was strained; the veins on his arms and neck bulged violently.

         “I’m not leaving you, Dad!” Hannah hollered, standing up next to her father.

         “Yeah, we’re not going anywhere without you!” added Gemma.

         “You’ll be killed if you stay!” Sensei said straining to keep his shield intact, but the shield was beginning to buckle. John Grace’s legs slid backward from the force of the attack.

         “No, we won’t leave you!” Hannah shouted.

        “The only way to help me is to find The Dragon Codex and bring it back safely to me!” said Sensei. “The ‘literary lions!’ It’s between the literary lions. You’re the only ones who can do it! The way in is the way out!”

With one hand still straining against the attack, Sensei aimed his other hand at Hannah, Gemma, and Matthew. He shot an arc of sparkling white light that formed a protective ball around them.

With a mighty shove, Sensei Grace pushed the ball as hard as he could. Hannah, Gemma, and Matthew held on for dear life as the clear orb rolled out the emergency door and bounced like a giant out-of-control hamster ball, wildly down the street.



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Chapter 3

The Way in Is the Way Out


 

The friends bounced and rolled across midtown Manhattan, careening off buildings and narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic, pedestrians, bicyclists, deliverymen, trucks loading and unloading, road repair crews, taxis, buses, old ladies, and street vendors.

Hannah and Gemma, who loved roller coasters, were fine, but Matthew was a different story. It was all he could do not to hurl.

         “Hang on Matthew!” yelled Gemma. “We’re almost there!”

            “Mmmmphhhunngh.”

Finally, the energy ball smashed into the front stairs of the main branch of the New York Public Library some two miles away. It cracked open like an egg and melted into the concrete.

Hannah, Gemma, and Matthew lay motionless for a moment. When they tried to stand up they knocked into each other like circus clowns. Hannah seized Gemma, they loved roller coasters and quickly recovered, but Matthew’s skin was a strange mix of green and white.

         “Can we just take the bus from now on?” asked Matthew who plopped himself down against a large stone pedestal and held his head in his hands.

Hannah stepped out onto Fifth avenue to hail a taxi back to her father.

         “C’mon,” she told Gemma and Matthew, “we gotta get back to the school.”

Gemma grabbed her arm. “Your dad said we had to find the codex first.”

Hannah didn’t want to hear any of it. All she knew was she had left her dad in trouble. “First we go back, then we’ll get the codex,” she insisted.

A taxi pulled up. Hannah opened the door.

         “Wait!” insisted Gemma. “Your dad said the only way to save him was to get the codex.”

Hannah’s shoulders slumped. She didn’t want Gemma to be right.

        “Besides,” said Gemma. “Look where we are.” Gemma pointed to the two marble lion statues, sitting majestically opposite each other on the plaza in front of the library.

         “So what?” said Hannah. Then she gasped. She slammed the taxi door shut.

        “Patience and Fortitude,” Hannah said, looking at the carved lion statues sitting high on stone pedestals in front of the wide plaza. “That’s their names.”

         “So what?” asked Matthew, finally coming out of it.

       “Two lions in front of a library? Literary lions. Look between the literary lions.” Hannah had a feeling this is where they were supposed to be, even if she hated the idea of leaving her father even for a second. She would just find The Dragon Codex as quickly as possible and run back to him.

         “Ok, so what do we do now?” asked Gemma.

      “Look for something out of the ordinary?” guessed Hannah.

Hannah and Gemma searched the plaza, while Matthew continued to lean against the pedestal under Fortitude.

Next to Patience, Hannah came upon an old, grizzled homeless man dozing in a chair. As she searched the area around the man, he opened his eyes.

         “The way in is the way out,” he mumbled, then adjusted his seated position and went back to sleep.

Hannah was startled. What did he just say? That was exactly what her dad said. Hannah was used to dealing with crazy people in New York city, usually you just nodded your head politely and kept on walking, but that couldn’t be a coincidence, right? She looked at the man again but he was slumped in his chair, eyes closed.

Hannah tucked her hand in her sleeve, so she wouldn’t have to touch him, then shook the homeless man. He opened his eyes. They were crystal blue and bright. The man looked at her like a hawk.

            “What did you just say?” Hannah asked.

          “You’ll need both patience and fortitude to find the book.”

Hannah had about a hundred more questions for the man, but she would not get to ask any of them. A sharp, stinging wind, like the one in the school gym, blew hard and angry across the plaza.

Matthew, who was revived somewhat by the breeze, looked up but, “uh…uh…” was all he could get out.

Hannah and Gemma saw him pointing at the seven-hundred-foot-tall skyscraper across the street. A ragged shadow, like a phantom, towered over the building. Hannah looked back towards the homeless man, but she couldn’t find him.

The shadow phantom raced down the front of the skyscraper with lightning speed, blowing paper and street debris everywhere.

In a vain attempt to hide, Matthew pressed his back against Fortitude’s pedestal. To his great surprise, the center stone section slid down and he toppled backwards into the pedestal.

             “Help!” he cried.

Hannah and Gemma got lost in the whirlwind and tried to shield themselves from the gross disgusting city dust that flew into their eyes and mouths.

             “Where’s Matthew?” shouted Gemma.

           “I can’t see,” said Hannah. That’s when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Hannah jumped. It was the homeless man.

           “The way in is the way out,” he said. The homeless man pointed to the open entrance in Fortitude’s pedestal a few feet away. Hannah grabbed Gemma. She looked for the homeless man but a crow, with piercing blue eyes, flew past them instead, screeching wildly as it flew off.

Hannah and Gemma leaped inside the pedestal but smashed into Matthew trying to clamber out.

            “Let us in!” Gemma cried.

            “Let me out!” shouted Matthew.

The ground shook violently. Gemma and Hannah both shoved Matthew back inside the pedestal as a giant shadow hand, bigger than they were, reached out to grab them.
  
             “How do you close this thing?!” Matthew said as they frantically looked for a way to close the entrance.

Matthew stepped backwards and fell over a lever on the floor causing the stone slab that had opened from Matthew’s leaning, to slide up in a flash, sealing the friends inside. The pedestal rattled and shook.

            “Look!” said Gemma pointing to the only object in the pedestal, a rickety, spiral staircase.

        “C’mon,” said Hannah. The staircase creaked on Hannah’s first step. She wondered if it would hold them. The pedestal shook and groaned. The friends crept down stair by stair, as fast as they could in the dark, feeling for each step.

They had gone a lot further than they had imagined when Hannah saw a pinhole of light below them that seemed to hang in the middle of the darkness.

         “The way out?” asked Gemma, her heart thumping against her chest.

Hannah gulped. “I sure hope so.”

As the team went down further and further, the pinhole of light got larger and larger until, finally, they took a final step and were standing in tall grass in the full sunshine of a beautiful valley.

High grass and wildflowers of the most vivid greens, blues, candy-colored lemon yellows, and cherry-blossom pinks stretched as far and as wide as they could see. Hannah could almost taste the colors.

Off to the right, was a deep-pile Afghan carpet of pine forest that ran along the bottom and side of the valley. To their left and slightly below them (Hannah guessed it was to the west) a wide, lazy, flowing river made its slow way along the entire length of the valley floor. To complete the picture, rugged snow-capped mountains framed the valley.

             “Wow,” gasped Matthew. “Who knew all this was under the library?”

Hannah wanted to enjoy the scenery as much as her friends but her mind was on her dad. Gemma read Hannah’s face.

              “Your dad is fine, I know it,” she said putting her hand softly on her friend’s arm.

              “I know he is,” said Hannah trying to believe it. “I just wish he’d’ve told me about all this stuff before today.”

Gemma got it. “My parents didn’t tell me I was adopted until I was nine.”

             “But you’re Chinese and they’re white,” said Hannah.

             “It was still a shock.”

All three friends laughed. But Hannah’s attention was soon diverted by a ginormous shining object high on a far hill that glittered like cut diamonds in the sun and was immense, even from miles away.

             “What do you think that is?” she asked.

            “I don’t know,” said Matthew getting nervous. “but let’s not get any closer―”

             “We must get closer to it,” said Hannah.

             “Look here, flowers. Why don’t we set up base camp first? Y’know, get our bearings, take soil samples―”

             “But you hate dirt,” said Gemma.

          “Whaddya mean? I was practically born outdoors.” When a gnat flew past however, Matthew screamed. But a moment later, he wished the gnat would be his biggest problem. Something was moving in the nearby forest. Matthew turned to look for the ladder, but it was gone. Only the valley and forest was there.

Thump! Crack! Thuark! Trees fell like toothpicks.

          “Garden gnomes?” Matthew asked, hoping.

A hideous and immense head, bigger than a house, however, from the tops of the trees.

Hannah’s face went slack with fear. “We have a situation here, people.”

















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Hannah Grace and The Dragon Codex: Book 1: Hansu Chathri. Right here, Right now.

Hannah Grace and the Dragon Codex Book 1 Cover
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