Monday, May 9, 2011

Excerpt: The Magician's Castle (Book Four)

In trying to break a spell put on Cynthia's family by a magician, Cynthia and Gus find themselves in a magical garden filled with frightening stone statues.

I jumped at the sight of more than a dozen hideous statues, faces frozen in fear. A contrast of white flowers, from Aron's description–edelweiss–surrounded them. We moved close to Molly for protection.

"Wh…what are they?" Cynthia gasped. "And, why do they look so afraid?"

I'd never been quite this unnerved in all our travels, even when staring down Jack LaBuse and his band of pirates. "C'mon, Molly," I urged. "Let's go." She didn't budge. I tugged her collar, but couldn't move her massive size. She did a little circle dance, stamping the ground to make a bed, and then laid down for the night. There had to be better places to sleep.

I shrugged and gave a resigned smile. "At least she still acts like a dog. Looks like we're here for the night."

"But, Gus! Look at this place. I won't shut my eyes with those things staring at us!"

"I agree, but let's face it, it's getting dark and cold, and Molly is warm and furry. I'm sleeping right here." I curled up next to her, my head resting in the scruff of her neck.

Cynthia stamped her foot. "Have you seen how much she sheds? My clothes will be a mess. And, who knows what she's rolled in recently." She sniffed. "Eww. She smells…doggy."

"She's a dog!" I was in no mood to argue. "Suit yourself. I'm comfy and warm. What about you?"

Cynthia settled in, her head resting on Molly's shoulder. She sighed and moments later, started to snore.

Rat-a-tat-tat. Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom. Drumbeats? Band practice? I played the snare drum and Jimmy Mathews pounded steadily on the bass to the ‘Panther Fight Song.’ Hey! What the… My head came under attack by a felt-covered drum beater.

Molly's heartbeat pounded in my ear…faster and faster. She raised her head and stared to the left. No, I did not want to know what she sees! Nope, not gonna look! But, like anticipating a train wreck, I couldn't help myself.

Cynthia, too, must've felt Molly stir, because she peered over the dog's shoulder. "What is it?"

I shook my head. Molly focused on a huge rock formation down on one knee, with its chin resting on disfigured knuckles. My eyes locked on the frightening eyes staring back. A thin stream of moonlight landed directly on this fearsome creature.

Molly stood, quivering and faced the giant statue, and the rhyme we found in the metal box popped into my head. Search among the edelweiss. There was certainly enough of that around. Turning once, then turning twice. Molly turned, first in one direction then twice in the other.

In the moonlight you will see…that's it. Moonlight! The beam shining on the giant's face moved ever so slightly toward its knee. "Cynthia," I whispered, "the giant's knee. The one in the riddle."

Right on cue, Molly wriggled forward and we went with her. No way did we want to lose her protection. The statue didn't budge, and the dog did what dogs do: she (should She be capitalized?) dug a hole, right beside the giant's bended knee.

Search among the edelweiss,
Turning once, then turning twice.
In the moonlight you will see,
Yonder looms the giant's knee.

Molly dug furiously taking no time to rest. A dog on a mission. Then she sat, turned her head to one side–just as before–and looked into the hole.
I patted her dirt-splattered muzzle and reached inside the hole. "It's another metal box! Oh, please don't tell me we're going to have to figure out another riddle!"

"Just open it, Gus! Why do you always have to expect the worst?"
She's right. No need to ‘borrow trouble’ as Great-aunt Sally used to say. I opened the box, pulled out a frayed piece of paper the size of a book page, and read:

Travel forward. Travel back.
Only Time will tell.
Toss, you must, a lock of hair
Down the Wishing Well.

Travel forward. Travel back
With the missing page.
Only then will love return
To the magic stage.

"Is it the book page? Let me see it." Cynthia took the fragile piece of paper out of my hand. "There's a faint symbol at the top. I can't quite make it out."

"It's a coat of arms," I answered. "My grandfather told me how special symbols, going back for centuries, identified certain families."

"Wonder whose family this one represents? If the coat of arms belongs to the Kistler family, then this could be the missing page to the Book of Spells!" Cynthia did a silly dance waving the paper in the air.

I wanted to laugh and to believe we might be closer to an answer. "How do we find out for sure? Go back to the castle and talk to Eva, or should we go home, to 1964 and see if the book is still on Sebastien's kitchen table?"
Cynthia shoved the paper in my face. "Did you even read this? We're going to have to find this wishing well, and a lock of hair to throw into it. Pay attention, Gus!"

"You're right," I admitted. "I can't think. This place is really creeping me out." I scanned the dark, scary garden and saw Molly headed for a large pine tree. We could not lose her. "Molly's way over there. C'mon, let's go."

We walked as fast as we could without attracting the attention of the garden monsters. No sense waking them up. Too late. The smaller statues stayed motionless, but the stone giant moved, and then to my horror, groaned to its feet! He turned rigidly in my direction.

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