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|Series||The Dragon Jousters|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3562.A246 A79 2004|
Alta (2004) is the second book (the first is Joust) in the Dragon Jousters tetralogy by Mercedes Lackey. It is set in a fictionalized version of the pre-Pharaonic Lower Kingdom of Egypt. Lackey stated on her website that she intended Alta to be a fusion of predynastic Lower Egypt and Atlantis, with more emphasis on the former than the latter. The Atlantis connection is not readily apparent in Alta, but becomes a bit more obvious towards the end of the sequel, Sanctuary.
In this story, Kiron flies on Avatre to the place of his birth, Alta, with the help of the Bedu, nomadic desert dwellers. Upon reaching the outskirts of Alta City (capital of Alta), he rescues a girl, who turns out to be a daughter of a noble from a "river-horse," or a hippopotamus. This girl, Aket-ten, has the power of Speaking to animals with her mind as well as the "Far Seeing Eye" and the "Gift of Silent Speech"(with fellow Winged Ones). She is a Nestling, the designation of acolytes who live outside the temple (acolytes living in the temple are called Fledglings, and priests are Winged Ones). At the temple he tells the Jousters the secret to having tame dragons—and finds himself supervising eight boys about his age, including one of the two male heirs to the throne, in tending to their new dragon eggs. As he trains them and invents new battle tactics, the deceptions of the Magi, magic users in 'service' to the king, are slowly revealed. Eventually, the Magi declare near tyranny over all of Alta, using their superweapon, the eye, to keep the people in control. Kiron and his new friends, one of whom is murdered by the Magi, plot to overthrow the Magi or escape from their grasp. They eventually succeed with the help of a healer by poisoning the supply of tala, the plant that keeps wild dragons tame, and escape only after a fierce battle with the Tian jousters and their dragons. Due to the Tala being contaminated, only Ari, Kiron, and Kiron's wing retain control of their dragons (as they didn't need the tala in the first place, having raised their dragons from the egg). Ari is convinced to side with Kiron and his wing (there is no need for Jousters anymore, as all but a few of the dragons are gone), and enter the desert, guided by the Bedu (desert nomads).
With the help of the Bedu (and Kaleth, the other heir to the Altan throne, now Mouth of the Gods), they find their way to Sanctuary, a place of legend that was thought to have been buried by the sands of the desert. The story ends with them deciding to overthrow the magi from Sanctuary, and allowing anyone and everyone who wishes safety from the magi there to have it.