Twelve-year-old Elrod was a properly raised, and polite young man who had been taught to always thank those who do nice things for him. When he climbed the mountain where Shiverscales lived, he had no idea that thanking the dragon for eating his older sister would lead to a great adventure and a life-long friendship. They set out to find Shiverscales something other than maidens to eat, so knights will stop trying to slay him. After tasting everything from cookies to peas, do they succeed? The answer lies in the 13,000-word story Shiverscales, a chapter book that will appeal to any fourth to sixth grader who has an older sibling, or even a younger sibling, that they sometimes wish they didn’t have.
Back in the days when dragons were still fairly common, there lived in the land of the Misty Mountains, a particularly well-hated dragon, who was known as Shiverscales. As was the custom of dragons everywhere, Shiverscales lived a lonely life on the side of a mountain. Once a month or so, when he grew hungry, he would fly off across the nearby valleys, looking for something to eat. As everyone knows, a dragon’s favorite food is young maidens. When Shiverscales would happen upon a tasty looking maiden, he would swoop down from the sky, and just grab a bite. This, of course, was what made dragons so unpopular with the folks who lived in the lands around a dragon’s lair.
One fine and sunny day, while Shiverscales was sunning himself on the ledge outside his lair, he heard the sound of rocks rolling down the mountain below him. “Probably some brave knight coming to slay me,” said Shiverscales to himself as he yawned. “I suppose I should get ready. Funny thing that I cannot hear his armor clanking. Well, I am three hundred years old. They say when a dragon gets old, his hearing is the first thing to go.”
Shiverscales was still stretching when he noticed a young boy climb over the edge of his ledge. “Who are you?” Shiverscales bared his long, pointy teeth.
“My name is Elrod,” answered the young boy. “Are you the dragon they call Shiverscales?”
“I am. And what brings you up here onto my mountain?”
Elrod stood as tall as he could, so the great dragon might not notice his knees knocking together as he spoke. “Last week you ate my sister.”
“So,” Shiverscales smiled, “you have come here to slay me. Where’s your sword? And your shield and your lance and your armor?”
“Oh! I didn’t come to kill you,” answered Elrod. “I came to thank you.”
“Thank me?” asked Shiverscales.
“My mother says that when someone does something nice for you, then you should always thank that person. Even if the person is a dragon, I think that would still be the thing to do.”
Shiverscales turned his head sideways, like a dog when it is thinking about something. “And why is eating your sister something nice?”
“Because,” said Elrod, “she was older than I am, and she was always bossing me around. And before, I had to share my room with my three little brothers. Now I have her room all to myself, and also her very soft bed.”
“Are you saying I did you a favor?” asked the dragon as he folded his back legs under himself to sit down.
“Well, sure,” said the boy.
Shiverscales was quite surprised at this idea. In the past, men had always come to get even for the loss of their girlfriends, daughters, and sisters. This young boy was quite happy that his sister was no longer around. He looked young Elrod over, then smiled his slyest smile. “And what if I choose to eat you?”
Elrod laughed his bravest laugh. “Oh, you won’t eat me,” he answered, doing his best to smile.
“And why not?” boomed Shiverscales.
“Because I’m a boy, and everyone knows dragons only eat girls.”
“Well, you have me there,” admitted Shiverscales. “What about all the knights who come up here to slay me? How many of them return?”
“Well,” said Elrod, scratching his head, “none”.
“What do you think becomes of them?” asked the dragon.
Elrod thought for a minute, and then he thought some more. The more he thought, the less he liked what he was thinking. Finally, he answered, “You eat them?”
“Well, I have tried, but they always come up here wearing those suits of armor. Unfortunately, my claws are not designed to open armor. I have stacked them over there, behind that pile of rocks.”
Elrod cautiously went to the pile of rocks near the far side of the dragon’s ledge. He climbed to the top of the pile. He could see dozens of suits of armor, all placed neatly in rows and stacked on top of one another.
“Wow,” said Elrod. “What are you going to do with all that armor?”
“I don’t know,” said Shiverscales. “They are taking up a lot of room on my ledge.”
Elrod looked down on the valley below. “Why do you live up here alone?” he asked.
“I am not especially well-liked,” said Shiverscales.
“That’s because you are always eating peoples’ sisters, daughters, and girlfriends,” said Elrod.
“Yes,” said Shiverscales, “I can see how that may not be something that would win me a lot of friends. But alas, that is what dragons do.”
“Why?” asked Elrod.
“WHY?” shouted Shiverscales. “Because it just is!!”
“Now you sound like my dad.” said Elrod.
“I do? How’s that?” asked Shiverscales
“That’s the answer he always gives me when I ask him something,” said Elrod. “I ask, ‘Why is the sky blue?’ ‘Because it just is,’ he answers. I ask, ‘Why is it cold in the winter?’ ‘Because it just is,’ he says. I wonder why birds have feathers. Because they just do. Or…”
“Yes, I get the point,” interrupted Shiverscales.
“You interrupted,” said Elrod. “My mother says it isn’t polite to interrupt.”
“How old are you?” asked Shiverscales.
“Twelve, sir,” answered Elrod, “and a half”
“Would you like to reach thirteen?” asked Shiverscales.
“Yes,” answered Elrod.
“Then I suggest you learn not to correct your elders, especially when they are dragons,” said Shiverscales.
Elrod quickly apologized, and took two steps backwards. Then he stood there and thought. And the more he thought, the more he didn’t like the thought he was thinking. But then, all at once, he thought the best thought he had ever thought in his entire twelve-and-a-half years. “What if we found you something else to eat?” he asked.
“Why would we want to do that?” asked Shiverscales.
“Well, maybe then people would like you, and they wouldn’t want to come up here and slay you, and you wouldn’t have all those suits of armor piling up, and maybe you wouldn’t even need to live all the way up here all alone.”
“I happen to like it up here.” Shiverscales let out a puff of smoke from his nose as he answered, which reminded Elrod that dragons can breathe fire when they get really mad.
“Okay, so stay up here,” said Elrod, “but what about the other stuff?”
“It would be nice if all those knights would stop rattling and clanking up my mountain,” said Shiverscales. “But what would I eat?”
“What else do you like?” asked Elrod?
“I don’t know,” answered Shiverscales. “All my life, all I have ever eaten is maidens.”
“Even when you were a baby?” asked Elrod.
“Even then,” answered Shiverscales. “My mother would catch one and . . .” Shiverscales lay down. Then he smiled and closed his eyes.
After a few minutes of waiting, Elrod carefully touched one monstrous leg. “Mr. Shiverscales?”
“Ah, yes,” said Shiverscales. “Sorry. Just thinking back. Where were we? Oh, yes. Food.”
“So, you don’t know what else you like?” asked Elrod.
“Sorry. No idea what anything else even tastes like,” answered Shiverscales.
“Why don’t we go find something?” suggested Elrod.
“An excellent idea,” answered Shiverscales. “Come, climb up on my back, and we shall go in search of something.”
“If you don’t mind, sir,” said Elrod, “I prefer to walk.”
“But flying would be so much faster,” said Shiverscales.
“Yes, sir,” said Elrod, “but if I fell while I was walking, I would not have nearly so far to fall.”
“So!” said Shiverscales. “Not afraid of a great fire-breathing dragon, but scared to fly?”
“No, sir,” answered Elrod. “It isn’t the flying I am afraid of. It’s the falling.”
Shiverscales looked down over the edge of his ledge to the valley below. Then he looked up at the sun. “It is late in the day already,” he said, “and there is no way I am going to climb down this mountain when it is so much easier to fly. Tomorrow morning, I will meet you at the bottom.” And with that, he turned and went into his cave.