The Dragonslayer is the fourth book in the Bone series. It collects issues 20-27 of Jeff Smith's Bone comics. This volume marks the beginning of the second part of the Bone saga, entitled “Solstice”. The book was first published by Cartoon Books in its original black-and-white form in 1997. Paperback and hardback coloured editions were published in 2006 by Scholastic.
This volume follows the deepening hostilities in between the inhabitants of the valley and the Rat Creatures and their allies. Further secrets from Thorn's past are revealed, and Phoney Bone appoints himself the town dragon slayer. This one has a much darker tone than the previous books, evidenced in part by moments such as the one in which Thorn cuts off Kingdok's arm.
Following the message that a Rat Creature army is crossing the Eastern border, Fone Bone, Thorn and Gran'ma Ben travel off-road to the Barrelhaven. Gran'ma Ben suffers an attack of her “gitchy feeling” - a dizziness that has long been her omen of impending trouble. Meanwhile, at the Barrelhaven tavern itself, Phoney Bone's tales of dangerous dragons make his end of the bar the most popular, but Lucius gives him a stern warning about messing with them.
Earth & Sky
After fending off their ambush, Gran'ma Ben captures one of the two Stupid Rat Creatures and learns from him that the valley is being evacuated. Kingdok arrives and attacks the party, and knocks out Fone Bone with his war club, steps on Thorn and attacks Ben. Taking up Gran'ma Ben's sword, Thorn swings the blade in a blur and slices off Kingdok's right arm. Through a haze of pain, Kingdok sees Ben and Thorn as the queen and crown princess of old, and describes them to himself as "Earth and Sky", before he flees with the two Stupid Rat Creatures. Smiley Bone, hearing the Fone Bone's cries of distress, rushes out with the townsfolk to look for him, but they only find the blood-splattered scene of the fight.
Council in the Dark
The two Rat Creatures find the fainted body of Kingdok and blame themselves for his wounding. They decide to desert the pack rather than face the consequences. As Thorn dresses Gran'ma Ben's wounds in the aftermath of the fight, Ben tells her the reason she was sent to Deren Gard as a child; Thorn is the “Veni-Yan Cari”, the Awakened One, a person who is most in touch with “The Dreaming”. Ben goes on to explain how she, Thorn, will be at risk from enemies in her dreams; indeed, she has already been threatened by The Hooded One, who Gran'ma suspects is in contact with the Lord of the Locusts, and may be one of the “Venu”, a sect of mystics who study dreams and are traditionally clad in hooded robes. The Hooded One is interested in Thorn because she has more power than even the Lord of the Locusts, and seeks to control her. Angered by further revelations that her past has been concealed from her, Thorn turns her back on Gran'ma Ben and leaves for the Barrelhaven alone. Fone Bone makes to follow her, and Gran'ma Ben gives him her sword, as well as a pendant bearing the royal crest with instructions to show it to Lucius. The minute Fone Bone leaves, Gran'ma runs off into the woods. When Thorn and Fone Bone arrive at Barrelhaven, they find Phoney Bone has taken control of the town and barricaded the roads.
The Hooded One brings news to the Lord of the Locusts that the armies of Pawa in the South have joined their cause, and the kingdom of Atheia has fallen to them. The Lord of the Locusts fears Thorn's power is awakening and their opportunity to seize control of her is slipping away, instructing The Hooded One to succeed soon or else kill her.
At Barrelhaven, Phoney Bone has the town in his thrall with his tales of dragons, and has stockpiled many of the townspeople's goods in payment for his “protection”. Late one night, Fone Bone finds a baby rat creature scrounging in the garbage. Staying at the inn that night, Thorn is once again visited by The Hooded One in her dreams, this time revealing its face like young Gran'ma Ben's. She is only saved in the nick of time when Fone Bone wakes her to tell her about the Rat Creature cub that has found its way into the town. Thorn threatens to kill the cub so Fone Bone takes it back to the barn only to wait in agony for Thorn to kill it.
Deliver Us These Laws
Lucius Down, who has been out searching for Gran'ma Ben for two days, returns to find the town barricaded. He protests about Phoney appointing himself leader, and orders the fences to be torn down, but the townsfolk, terrified of dragons, turn against him and refuse to even let him back into his own tavern.
In the barn, Smiley is delighted to meet the Rat Creature cub, and promptly adopts him as a pet. Fone Bone meets with Lucius and explains what happened in the forest. Lucius fears that the Rat Creatures evacuating the valley could be a precursor to another sneak attack like the Nights of Lightning.
Meanwhile, the Hooded One addresses his army of Rat Creatures and men from Pawa. He tells them the two laws that the Lord of the Locusts has set down for them and then orders them to prepare for war.
The Midsummer Day's Plan
The townspeople's patience begins to wear thin as Phoney continues to press them for his “dragon slayer” fees. He lectures the townsfolk on the dangers of hoarding their goods and announces how he plans to use everything he has collected to lure a dragon and kill it (in actuality, a ruse to flee with all his ill-gotten gains). Meanwhile, Thorn, exhausted and unable to sleep for fear of her dreams, decides to return to the farm house, throwing down her sword and leaving the village.
In the mountains enclosing the valley, the Rat Creature army and the Pawans have massed under the instructions of The Hooded One. They are, just as Lucius and Gran'ma Ben feared, preparing to strike at the inhabitants of the valley.
Fone Bone and Smiley sneak out of the compound to release the Rat Creature cub, but Smiley strays out of sight with the cub,and Fone goes after him. Thorn tries to return home to the farm house, but collapses with exhaustion on the way, where four Veni Yan monks catch up with her and return her sword, which she left at the Barrelhaven. In her dream, she meets the Great Red Dragon, who convinces her not to run away by showing her visions of her friends, her grandmother, and Rat Creatures coming to attack them.
The next morning, Phoney Bone puts his “dragonslaying” plan into action, rallying the townsfolk to carry him and his cache of loot into the mountains where, he tells them, he will capture and kill a dragon.
On the Dragon's Stair
Phoney and the townspeople reach the Dragon's Stair, a pass high in the mountains. Phoney gets the townsfolk to set up a dragon trap as he prepares to flee with his ill-gotten gains, but the plan becomes more complicated when the Great Red Dragon deliberately walks into the trap, courtesy of Ted. The townspeople urge Phoney to kill the trussed-up dragon, but just as he is about to reluctantly bring the knife down, Thorn arrives and stops him. She points out the columns of smoke rising from the valley; in their absence, the town has been attacked and burned by Rat Creatures, but the townspeople don't believe her and say the dragons have attacked the town. Suddenly another pack of Rat Creatures encounters the party. Thorn, with the four Veni Yan monks fighting alongside her, drive the Rat Creatures back, and Phoney uses Thorn's sword to free the dragon. The dragon and Veni Yan monks chase the Rat Creatures away, and Thorn at once instructs the townsfolk to arm themselves and head back to the town; war against the Rat Creature army and their allies has begun.