The Battle for Duncragglin
Used with permission of Tundra Books. All rights reserved.

Prologue

"There it is, Dad! That's where they left it."

The man glanced up the cliff to where a board was wedged in the rocks. He shook his head. "If even they didnae want it, Grant, it cannae be worth anything."

Undeterred, the boy ran across the sand at the water's edge, leaping clusters of seaweed stranded by the tide. Shells crunched under his boots as he climbed the rocks at the base of the cliff Photo, entry to cave.. Reaching the board, he yanked it loose and turned it over. Yes, this is it!

Here they were, those strange animal engravings that had so intrigued him earlier that day, when he saw that foreign boy holding the board. He examined the engravings closely: the sharp-tusked boar that stood so ridiculously erect on its hind legs; the ant that looked like it was brandishing a weapon; the bird with the long pointy beak and the piercing eye that seemed to stare all-knowingly out from the board.

But the carvings were faint; the wood rotted, green, and slimy. The boy grimaced. His dad was right: this was not the kind of thing that would sell in their Scottish artifacts and antiques store. Moreover, being waterlogged, it was heavy, and he didn't feel like hauling it back to the car. The only reason he was interested in it at all was because of that foreign boy.

Although he did not want it badly enough to carry it, he did not want to leave it either. That foreign boy might come back for it. So he lifted the board by one end and, with a grunt, gave it his best Scottish caber-toss. The board arced and plonked end-first to disappear underwater. Seconds later, it rolled back up to the surface, where it nodded gently in the drift and tug of the swells coursing over submerged rocks. But instead of drifting away, it was slowly being pushed back to shore by the waves. The tide must be coming in, the boy thought. Annoyed, he watched as the board disappeared behind some rocks. He climbed to the water's edge to see where it went. To his surprise, it was gone.

Kneeling low to the water, the boy saw an opening beneath an overhang. Intrigued, he hung his head down further and peered into the darkness. The hollow extended far under the rocks. Photo, ruins. Wherever it led, it was big enough to suck in a board and make it disappear without a trace.

This was important, and he knew it. This just might be what he and his father were looking for - the way into the underground caverns that legend had it were sealed off ages ago, caverns that his father suspected might contain all kinds of valuable ancient relics, or better yet, treasures . . . huge chests filled with gold coins, guarded only by helpless grinning skeletons clutching rusted swords studded with priceless, gleaming gems. Ha! They would sell it all, the swords too. The boy didn't believe those tales of ghosts and demons; tales of how people who went in never came out. And so what if some people had found a way in and had gotten lost? His father was smarter than that. He wouldn't get lost. They would find things never found before. They would be rich! His father would have what he always wanted. And then he would be content, and then he wouldn't be in the pub all the time, and he wouldn't hit him and his mother anymore, and everyone would be happy. . . .

The boy scampered back up the rocks. Waving urgently, he persuaded his reluctant father to climb around the outcropping.

His father leaned over and shone his torch into the opening. The light traveled a long way down a narrow, waterfilled tunnel. The incoming tide was almost to its ceiling. Waves slapped the sides, rose up to fill it completely, and receded as the seawater came gurgling out.

The man let out a low whistle. He straightened. "Yes," he said softly. "You just might have found it. And if you have, this is the start of something big . . . something very big."

Excerpt from The Battle for Duncragglin, 2009, Andrew H. Vanderwal, published by Tundra Books.