THE SHADOW’S SHADOW
Small glowing worms floated in the air all around Morgause’s tower chamber, casting a dim light. A scraggly cat was licking off pieces of lard from the bed-sized slab that stuck out into the room. Over the fire bubbled a large copper pot, the source of the reeking smell.
“I require the dying gasp of the waning crescent.”
She looked at the small crack in the sealed window. Concentrating, she stared at a single beam of moonlight, as thin as a strand of hair, shining through it. The sharp snap of two bone-white fingers produced a floating prism that trapped the beam. She waved her hand, and the prism floated across the room and fell into the boiling copper pot.
“He should have sealed that!” she sang.
Morgause glided across the room and settled into a large carved chair. The green-faced clock was a bitter reminder of the faint scenes of the boys it had shown her. Beside the clock lay the dried, prickly thistle the vulture had left for her.
“The urchins have been in the maze twice. I think it best they have some company if they enter again. Whom shall I send?” she said, her sharp fingernails gently tapping the dusty desktop next to her chair.
“One day I shall break Bleise’s imprisonment in my tower. It’s maddening that I can’t use my own magic to leave. The very gall of that old fool! But until I find a way, I can still wreak a little havoc,” she said to no one. She turned her head like an owl, surveying the chamber, her cell.
A fiendish smile formed on her lavender lips. She walked over to the copper pot and dropped the thistle in, along with a drop of her blood from its thorn. Laughing, she sang the spell:
From a border-castle keep,
Goblin redcap wakes from sleep.
Blood-soaked hat and sharpened teeth,
There are children you must meet.
The stinking liquid stopped bubbling and became thick as it cooled. A silk top hat emerged from the surface, followed by an enormous nose and teeth too large for the cracked mouth. Morgause smiled as the goblin stepped from the copper pot; viscous black liquid dripped from his compact body onto the stone floor.
What did the Old Ones send? Morgause thought, studying the newcomer. He’s not ancient. He looks more like a Victorian chimney sweep! Still . . . his hat is soaked in blood. Ah . . . there—he certainly has the teeth!
“Socs, is it okay if Amos sleeps over?” Ethan asked.
His uncle was seated at the kitchen table, munching a piece of toast. Amos smiled and wiggled his fingers in greeting.
Before Socrates could answer, Mrs. Gooch burst into the room, almost knocking the boys over. “A sleepover! We’ve never had one in this house. I swannee—I’ve got cooking to do,” she said, scurrying out of the kitchen.
“I guess that’s all decided,” Socrates said, licking marmalade from his finger.“I’ll get the popcorn,” an excited Fergus Bugg said. He put down the pants he was mending and hurried out of the room.
“Socs, was he sewing?” Ethan asked.
“Well, to be more persnickety, he was mending,” Socrates said. “Every man should know how to sew. One never knows when one’ll need it. Have fun, guys; I’m turning in. I bid y’all good night. Amos, glad you can stay over.” He nodded at Amos, then left the room.
Ethan noticed that Amos was the happiest he’d seen him as they followed Socrates and entered the hall.
“Well, time to crash.” Ethan turned and called to Mrs. Gooch in the kitchen. “Mrs. Gooch, can we sleep in the library?”
“Of course! There are some sleeping bags in the hall closet,” Mrs. Gooch said, appearing in the doorway.
“Oh boy! This sleepover is going to be great,” a girl’s voice said.
The boys turned and saw Jynx standing in the mudroom. She was in her pajamas and had a pillow tucked under her arm.
Mrs. Gooch gave Jynx a surprised look. “I’ve phoned Mrs. Sprunt, and she says yes to the sleepover. I’ve got popcorn too. Jynx, you leave them boys alone. You can have a sleepover with me.”
Ethan saw Jynx huff, but then she cheered up at Mrs. Gooch’s suggestion. He dug around in the hall closet for the sleeping bags, then followed Amos to the library.
“How long do we have to wait?” Amos asked, spreading his sleeping bag out in front of the library fireplace.
“As long as it takes for everyone to fall asleep, I guess.”
“Ethan, I really hate guessing.”
“We don’t have a choice—I don’t think Socs ever goes to bed.”
“He said he was going to bed,” Amos replied.
“He says that,” Ethan explained, “but I can see light from the solar before I go to bed, and that’s been pretty late.”
“I hope we’re right about the painting,” Amos whispered.
“I hope nothing bad happens to us if we’re wrong,” Ethan said, lying on his back and looking at the ornately carved ceiling.
The two hours they waited felt like five. Making it worse for Ethan was the sound of Amos munching popcorn. It drove him crazy. The clock chimed one o’clock in the morning, and unable to wait any longer, Ethan whispered, “Let’s go.”
Amos nodded and started loading his backpack. Finally, he put the bag of popcorn inside and zipped it up. The hardwood boards creaked under their feet as they sneaked down the hall toward the mudroom. Their nerves were on edge when the door to the porch squeaked on its hinges as it opened. They left the side porch and walked out into sleeting rain. At Ethan’s groan, Amos said, “This is actually good luck. The sleet will make it easier to get to the graveyard without being seen. Most sane people will be inside.”
Ethan led Amos to the far edge of the estate’s grounds. Amos tried to correct him, but Ethan whispered they should take a different route; Crag wouldn’t walk beside the wall. They came to a grove of cedar trees and decided to stop under them to take a break from the sleet. A chilling smell wafted over them—tobacco. They froze, scared to make a sound.
“Who’s there? Speak up!” shouted Crag.
Ethan tried to make a run for it, but he couldn’t get Amos to move; he was frozen in fear. He grabbed Amos’s arm and tried to pull him away from the trees, but his friend still wouldn’t budge.
“I got ya, now!” they heard Crag shout.
Ethan felt helpless—and braced himself for the worst.
Watching Crag from the solar’s porch was a bluetick hound enduring the barrage of sleet. At Crag’s shout, he hurried back into the solar and found Socrates snoring in his chair. After pressing his cold, wet nose to Socrates’s nose, the man awoke with a start. The dog barked and trotted back to the porch. Socrates followed.
“Puck, this had better not be a raccoon or rabbit. It’s sleeting.” He joined the dog at the rear railing and saw Crag and the boys.
“Ah, good work, boy.” Socrates rubbed the hound behind the ears. “The boys are indeed trying to get into the maze. Hmm, and Morgause is watching my house. Not a bit surprised.”
Puck barked and pawed at the ground.
“Well, fella, I betcha you’re right,” said Socrates, nodding. “The kids’ obsession with the maze certainly bears the mark of my old master, Bleise. He won’t tell me what’s going on—never has. So we’ll need to play detective and reason it out. You be Watson, and I’ll be Holmes.” Socrates chuckled.
Puck whined and circled around in place.
“Yes, I know I always get to be Holmes, but deductions are kind of my thing.” Socrates tapped his foot and then looked up. “Okay, here goes—the mausoleum is in the maze, and Bleise’s fresco is in the mausoleum. Bleise has enchanted one or all three kids to use the fresco portal. But why the kids?” Socrates rubbed his chin and looked at the dog with raised eyebrows.
Puck, his coat sleek and shiny with rain, barked once.
Socrates sighed, pressing his lips together. “Well, I should think that would be more obvious to you, Dr. Watson. Remember, only the innocent can use the portal. That means that Bleise is after one thing.”
Puck paced back and forth across the porch, then barked again.
Socrates shook his head at the dog and held up his hands. “See, this is why I get to play Holmes. Bleise is after the Ceithir, of course, my dear Watson. I’ll have to learn the reason for this from Bleise, unfortunately.”
Baring his teeth, Puck growled.
“Quite right—Morgause will realize that Bleise is up to something as well. Bleise won’t give up until he gets his way. All I can do, for now, is try to keep the kids safe. Crag is out there, and he’ll try to stop them. He doesn’t know what’s going on, so I think a diversion is in order—and fast.” Socrates tugged on his beard, and two shadows instantly appeared on the icy lawn below. “Puck, my shadows should keep Scafell occupied for a while. My shadows are kinda reminiscent of that story about a lost boy—Pan? Ah, they don’t write like that anymore.” He grimaced at the rain. “It’s nasty out here; let’s get back to the fire.”
The boys heard the crashing of icy branches and a few curse words—but Crag didn’t come for them. Where had the old man gone? Ethan ran around the left side of the grove, following the sound of heavy footfalls crunching the snow. Through the sleet, he could see Crag running away from him and Amos; now he was pursuing two distant, indistinct figures sprinting toward the far side of the house.
Ethan wondered who the figures were. Could they be Socs and Fergus? No, the figures were too small and fast. Ethan shook his head. No matter. What really mattered was that Crag was safely away from them. He made his way back around the grove and found Amos still in the same spot. “Amos, come on,” Ethan whispered. “Crag’s gone; we’ve got to go.” He nudged his friend, whose body seemed as rigid as an icicle.
Without a word, Amos followed Ethan out of the cedar grove.
Because of the sleet, they struggled with the frozen latch. Ethan’s fingers felt numb, and the rain kept dripping from his hair into his eyes. The rattle of sleet finally lessened when Ethan closed the heavy trapdoor above them. The quiet was a relief as Ethan fumbled around, looking for the torch and his matches. Amos’s flashlight clicked, and a beam of light cut through the darkness of the passage. Upon opening the door to the maze, they were amazed to see there was no sleeting rain. Amos grabbed his roll of silver duct tape, stuck a small piece on a nearby branch, and waited as Ethan tried to decide which path to take. “It’s different than before. Three paths start in front of the door. Which way?” Ethan asked.
“I say we go straight. If it’s wrong, we’ll try the other two eventually,” Amos said.
No moon lit the way for them. Ethan clicked on his flash- light and sent another beam through the frigid, still air.
This maze proved harder to solve, and the darkness— despite their flashlights—added to the difficulty. Even after working their way through the maze for almost thirty minutes, it felt like their effort wasn’t getting them anywhere. Amos finally stopped. “The footprints disappeared again.” He stuck another piece of duct tape on a branch. He was pulling another piece of tape from his pocket when he said, “Hey, watch it.”
“That was the second time you poked me.”
“Amos, I didn’t poke you.”
“Yeah, sure. I suppose that’s cool at Brinkley? How about you lead?”
What’s gotten into Amos? Ethan thought.
They continued on to the end of the long path, and just as Ethan slowed for them to decide which way to go, he said, “Really nice. Payback, huh? Thing is, I never poked you.”
“Ethan, it wasn’t me. I didn’t do anything.”
“That would be most true,” they hear a Scottish voice say. “It was I, and that would be myself.”
They turned in the direction of the voice and saw the strangest little man they’d ever seen. Ethan reckoned he was around four feet tall and had a huge nose and teeth.
“Now, just who would yourselves be?” the redcap asked with a toothy grin.
“Aaugh!” The boys screamed and ran into a path. Ethan thought if they could make it to another path and turn, maybe they’d be rid of him.
Ethan stopped and waited for Amos. As Amos reached him, something snapped around Ethan’s ankles and jerked his feet together. His body slammed into Amos, and they both fell to the frozen ground with a thud. Who is this guy? Ethan thought.
Ethan strained to see what was happening in the darkness. He had no idea where they were in the maze. While they struggled to free themselves from the ropes, Ethan heard mumbling and a shuffling of feet. Amos stopped wriggling and went still.
The mumbling became louder, as did the footsteps on the hardened snow; the odd little man was arguing with himself. They heard a clunking sound.
“He’s got my flashlight. I must have dropped it,” Amos whispered.
“Amos—” Ethan was interrupted by a loud curse word and then a click.
A beam of light started bouncing around their bodies and then settled on Amos’s face. The little man stood a few feet away, hat tilted on his head. His thick hands clutched the flashlight as if it were an invincible weapon. Amos didn’t move.
“This I like very much.” The man studied the flashlight. “Now, tha’ twas certainly rude, wasn’t it?” the little redcap said through greasy teeth.
The boys couldn’t make a sound.
“Something got yer tongue, aye? Hee, hee.” He giggled and hopped around them.
“Let us go. Joke’s over,” Ethan said.
“Oh, wee lass, the jest’s not over. I’m just gettin’ started,” the goblin said.
“Lass? Ethan, he thinks you’re a girl,” Amos said.
“Of course yer girls—the long hair,” the filthy redcap replied.
The light moved, disappeared, and then settled on the chin of the strange goblin. The shadows cast by the flashlight made his face look like a skull. He looked like a cross between a skeleton and a deranged rabbit.
The short man’s lips curled into a menacing grin, and he snatched the light away from his face. “This darkness is a wee bit inconvenient.” His fingers snapped, and tiny floating lights instantly appeared, floating in the chill air. The light did little to improve the boys’ opinion of him.
Standing before them was a very short creature with a head two sizes too big for his small body. He was dressed in a black frock coat, waistcoat, pants, and hobnailed boots. On his head he wore a battered and filthy top hat; everything he wore was coated in something that was a thick, dirty dark red.
“The Mad Hatter,” Amos whispered, eyes wide.
“No, a redcap.” The goblin sneered, bending toward Amos and poking him in the nose with a stained gloved finger.
“Alice in Wonderland?” Ethan asked, momentarily forget- ting their predicament.
“You have actually read something,” said Amos. “Amazing. But the actual title is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
“I don’t think this is the time, Amos,” Ethan said, looking at the little man.
The redcap studied the boys lying bound on the snowy path. He cocked his head to one side and then straightened it with a loud crack.
“They’ve nev’r seen a redcap,” he muttered. “Well, no matter—wee lasses must have the riddle—hee, hee.”
“What riddle?” Ethan shouted. “By the way, little dude, we’re boys!”
The redcap replied, “Are ye now? How vexing. Anyway, I’ve always a riddle—must have a riddle. Wouldn’t be sporting.”
Amos said, “Uh, sir, why?”
“Why? Well, Sonny Jim, without the riddle, I don’t get to gobble you up and soak me hat in your blood,” he said nonchalantly.
In disbelief, Ethan asked, “Did you just say you are going to eat us?”
“Well, no. I said ‘gobble you up,’ but you’ve grasped the gist. How ’bout you first, plumpy boy?” he said, glaring at Amos.
Amos started screaming and wriggling to try to get free. Ethan yelled at him to quit; Amos made the ropes tighten. Stopping, Amos struggled to catch his breath. When he had calmed down, Amos asked, “Who are you?”
The man smiled at the question.
“I am none other than the scourge of Kilmorak, the demon of Dochgarroch, the jackal of Jedburgh, and the miscreant of MunLochy! I am the shadow’s shadow, the night’s night, and the howl’s howl! The redcap of all redcaps! The—”
“Just finish it,” Ethan said, exasperated.
“I am called Dwaine.”
“Dwaine? After all that?” Amos asked.
Dwaine looked at the boys with an expectant expression, as if the sound of his name should be familiar to them.
“Okay, Dwaine, look. Just let us go, and we won’t report you to the police,” said Ethan.
“Interestin’ as this all may be, I think it’s you two what’s in for big trouble. Firstly, ’tain’t no police, whatever that is. Two, I’m not bound up with yew bough like you are. Lastly, the only way you lads are g’ttin’ free is to solve my wee riddle. I’ll leave ya two to ruminate upon my proposition.” With a loud snap of his fingers, he vanished, leaving the floating lights hovering above them.
“Ethan, I’m about to lose it.” Amos’s lip twitched in a nervous tic.
“I know—this is freaking me out too,” Ethan said.
“I can’t think of a way out of this. He’s holding all the cards.”
“Amos, we’ve got no choice; we’ve got to solve his riddle.”
“Wise choice, lads,” Dwaine whispered beside them, making them jump. “Shall we proceed, then, boys?” He held a few locks of Amos’s hair in his bloody fingers and sniffed it.
The boys nodded.
Strutting in front of them with his shoulders back and chest puffed out, Dwaine began to recite his riddle:
I fall slowly,
Then steal away.
I cradle the dead, But get stronger
Just as I get broken. Who am I?
Pulling an hourglass from his pocket, he turned it upside down and placed it in the snow, right in front of Ethan’s eyes.
“Hold it!” Amos shouted. “Repeat the riddle. I can’t remember it all. Repeat the riddle!”
“Easy, oh rotund one. Keep yer girdle on,” Dwaine said and stopped dancing around them. The floating lights stopped moving.
Dwaine repeated the riddle.
Ethan thought, Good thinking, Amos. That’ll give us more time.
“You have to start the hourglass again,” Amos said.
“Says who, blondie?” Dwaine said, annoyed.
“It’s only fair,” Amos replied.
“It’s only fair,” Dwaine taunted, then laughed. “Well, we must be fair.”
Dwaine kneeled and placed a smaller hourglass on the ground. He snatched the larger glass away.
“That’s fair,” Ethan said, frowning. I hope Amos can do this. Amos muttered to himself, “Fall, slowly, steal, cradle, dead, birth . . . death. Stronger, broken, fall slowly.” Then he repeated it.
Ethan watched as the grains of sand spilled into the hourglass’s lower bulb. We could attack him. Maybe we can tie him up with whatever he’s tied us with. The top of the hourglass began to empty.
Amos shouted, “I’ve got it!”
The last grain of sand fell from the glass’s narrow neck, and Ethan imagined he could see it perched at the very top of the hill inside the lower bulb.
Dwaine said, “Time, lads.”
Amos said one word: “Night.”
Dwaine inched closer to them, then stopped and shook his head like the word had finally reached his hairy ear.
“Wrong!” Then he grimaced. “I mean right, blast you!”
Ethan wondered whether this disgusting little redcap would keep his word and let them go.
Dwaine was livid. He sat in the snow, his legs crossed and his head in both of his slimy hands. One of his fingers was stuck in one hairy nostril.
“Fatty reckoned it all out,” he muttered. “Outsmarted ol’ Dwaine, he did. Dwaine doesna get to gobble up the human larvae. Wee lads feeling a wee bit smug, aren’t they?”
“Cut us loose; we had a deal!” Ethan shouted.
“Interruptin’ myself talking to myself he is,” Dwaine said. He rattled on for a few more seconds and then struggled to lift one hand into the air to snap his fingers. The yew-bough rope untied itself.
“Later, little creep,” Ethan said to Dwaine, who was now lying on his stomach.
Dwaine cried while his small fists pounded the snow.
Amos grabbed his flashlight, and they turned to leave. “You may have won this one, wee lads. I may have to let you go, but it’s not forever,” the redcap said and reached into his blood-caked coat. Pulling out another hourglass, he flipped it over and ceremoniously placed it on the snowy path.
“Amos, run!” Ethan shouted.
The next few minutes were a blur of flashlight beams, snow, and running. By some miracle, they reached the maze’s center and saw the ancient mausoleum.
Ethan was stooped over and panting, his hands on his knees. Amos was on one knee, his head bent to the ground.
Ethan whispered, “I hear running. Go!”
As he ran, Ethan looked for someplace close by where they could hide. Far ahead of Amos, he spotted a lone tree growing in the courtyard and ran toward it. Once safely behind the tree, however, he watched Amos struggle to cover the same ground. High-pitched giggling cut through the darkness, making the hairs on Ethan’s neck stand on end. Despite Dwaine’s jerky, frenetic movements, he was gaining on Amos, who was heading straight toward Ethan. The thick mass of dark clouds shifted above, revealing a full moon and flooding the area in silvery blue light.
“Ethan, where are you?” shouted Amos.
Ethan stayed hidden behind the gnarled tree. He was afraid to answer, not wanting Dwaine to know where he was hiding. He felt sick and ashamed of himself. How could he not help Amos? But he knew shouting would make his hiding place useless for both of them.
“Amos, behind the tree!” Ethan shouted. He looked from the tree to the door of the mausoleum—it was actually much closer than he’d thought.
He sighed, knowing he’d misjudged the distance while running. They could have made it. He prayed that Amos was far enough ahead of Dwaine that they could still get to the mausoleum and shut the door. With any luck, maybe he’ll ask us another riddle, he thought.
The laughing stopped as Amos neared him. Ethan saw Dwaine’s eyes widen. The redcap had stopped to stare at something above Ethan’s head. He looked up but only saw a branch. What was Dwaine looking at?
Ethan shouted, “Amos, behind the tree!” Amos sprinted to the tree and joined Ethan.
His mouth open, Dwaine stood motionless, keeping his gaze on the area above Ethan. Several seconds passed, and then the redcap turned and shuffled out of the courtyard and back into the maze. Just before he entered, he looked back across the clearing toward Ethan. Dwaine’s lip curled into a sneer and he shouted, “Curse you and your rowan tree!” He snapped his fingers and disappeared.
“Is he gone?” Amos asked. He was flat on the ground, his face in the snow.
“Yep, he’s gone. Something about a rowan tree?”
“That rowan must have some kind of power—he’s afraid of it. It means we’re safe from him if we’re in the mausoleum—see, its branches are over the entrance.”
Ethan looked into the branches above them but saw nothing. He checked the maze entrance across the court- yard; Dwaine hadn’t reappeared. “Let’s go before Dwaine comes back.”
They headed for the mausoleum. Once inside, a sense of relief washed over them as they slid the board into the brackets and barred the doors. They surveyed the interior and confirmed the place was free of other breathing crea- tures. Soon, the room’s torches were blazing brightly.
“He said he was going to eat us, Amos. Boy, that was close.”
“I’ll never read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland again— Dwaine’s a blood-soaked Mad Hatter,” Amos said, searching for his notebook.
They walked toward the fresco at the rear of the mausoleum.
“So, there’s the painting again,” Ethan said solemnly. “There it is.”
Socrates sat before the crackling fire in his solar, its glass roof showing few stars. His leg ached, a constant reminder of her abilities and power.
The one-eyed raven shifted his feet as he perched on the marble bust of Edgar Allan Poe.
“Well, Admiral, she had the better of me, didn’t she?” said Socrates to the bird. “All those years ago. Perhaps tonight we may have the better of her. Kind sir, please check on the boys. If my third eye is correct, they have reached the tomb. Thank you, Admiral. Be safe.”
The bird flew from the bust to the ledge, pushed his way through the window’s small trapdoor, and was gone.
“I wonder . . . Speaking of Admiral . . . ,” Socrates muttered. On the small table beside his chair rested a brown 1948 Admiral television set. After he turned the large knob, a pleasant click brought a point of light to the center of the small screen. Socrates adjusted the antennae on the top of the plastic television, and the front of the mausoleum began to materialize on the screen. The light from the interior torches flickered through the stained-glass windows.
It’s a shame it’s a black-and-white television, thought Socrates. If Bleise would allow a grown-up in the mausoleum, I could see the stained-glass windows. The colors must be wild!
He fine-tuned the television in hopes of seeing inside the burial chamber, but having no luck, he gave up.
“Admiral Benbow must protect them,” he said, turning off the television. Looking up at the glass roof, he saw Algol, the Demon Star, winking at him. This bad omen sent a shiver down Socrates’s spine.
Despite the raven’s efforts, the boys were in for a very difficult time.
Amos stood in front of the ancient painting, muttering to himself and flipping the pages of his notebook. Ethan sat on the floor behind him, his elbows on his knees—he could figure it out if Amos could. Didn’t he attend Brinkley Academy, one of the most selective private schools in the country? True, his grandfather had given the school a new science building, but that was just a minor detail.
Ethan finally gave up and looked around the crypt. The torch flames cast dancing shadows around the room. The face of the marble knight appeared to be moving.
“Zephyrus . . . postern . . . rhyme. cut steel . . . Poseidon?” Amos muttered.
Ethan got a cookie from Amos’s backpack and handed it to him. Amos nodded his head in thanks and nibbled, his eyes glued to the fresco.
“Ethan, none of this makes sense. The symbols don’t have anything in common.”
“What if what they have in common is that they don’t have anything in common?” Ethan asked.
“Ethan, that’s brilliant!” Amos said excitedly as he flipped through his notebook. “Nothing in common—the riddle says ‘bone to four, but once a time.’ ”
“So what?” asked Ethan.
“The painting is divided into four parts. We touch a part of the painting with a bone, and I reckon that bone means finger.”
“What happens after that?” Ethan asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe a panel or trapdoor opens, and we find an ancient treasure.”
“Or maybe something bad happens, Amos; maybe we get trapped and Dwaine finds us.”
“Only one way to find out.”
Amos moved closer to the painting. “Regardless of what we touch to make something happen, I hope it’s not another puzzle. Ethan, what if this is one big hoax?”
“It’d be pretty crazy to have a secret passage from a grave, a changing maze, and a bloody little goblin with huge teeth exist for no reason.” Ethan paused, tugging at the bottom of his shirt. “Amos, I haven’t told you everything. When I saw the light coming from the mausoleum the first time, a powerful feeling or force came over me. I couldn’t move, and I heard a voice. It said something about a hidden treasure and told me to seek the light. You’re the only person besides Jynx I’ve told. I’ve worried I’m going crazy.”
Amos nodded. “I’ve never wanted to admit magic in all this, but the maze and Dwaine have really weirded me out. Maybe magic exists, and we’re meant to find some treasure. My mother believes in magic; I’ve dismissed it as nonscientific, but maybe she’s right.”
“Maybe she’s crazy,” Ethan muttered. He hadn’t meant to say it—it slipped out.
Amos slammed Ethan against the stone wall, taking him by surprise. “She is crazy, you moron.” His face was inches from Ethan’s. “Don’t ever say that again. You know, you really suck.”
“Amos, I’m sorry. I screwed up.”
Amos let go of Ethan and turned back to the painting. Ethan sat down, his back against the wall. He felt horrible for what he’d said. He sat in silence, thinking, until he fell asleep.
He woke with a nudge to his shoulder. Amos was peering down at him, a serious look on his face. “You only said what everybody else has been saying about my mother. It really sucks. She’s actually really nice. I’m sorry for pushing you.”
“No worries, Amos.”
“You were asleep for over an hour,” Amos said, still studying the painting.
Ethan was listening to the howling wind outside when a sudden icy draft forced him to his feet. One torch went out, and the others began to wane. “Amos?”
“I know; the torches have been going down for the past thirty minutes,” Amos said, checking his watch. “We’ve got to hurry.”
Something clicked in Ethan’s brain. These riddles suck. He walked up to the painting. “Amos, I’ve had it. Let’s just pick a weird symbol. So what if something bad happens? Maybe magic will bring me a burrito, and we can get out of here. I’m hungry.”
Socrates smiled as he watched the raven wriggle through the small hole in the facade of the mausoleum. He had been focusing his third eye while lying on the floor of the library. The first time he’d done this, Mrs. Gooch thought he’d fallen. He had explained that he was meditating. Seeing Benbow enter the mausoleum would make the ordeal of getting to his feet worthwhile.
Well, Bleise, my innocent has just entered the tomb to keep an eye on the boys. Where I can’t go, certainly a brave and talented raven can.
He lost sight of the Admiral and the boys—something was interfering with his third eye. In frustration, he smacked the side of his head. Nothing. Using his cane for support, he struggled to his feet and then made his way to the fireplace’s mantel. Socrates picked up his large Meerschaum pipe and filled it with tobacco. He was uneasy.
He lit the pipe and puffed softly, sending white clouds of sweet-smelling smoke into the library. He thought of Morgause’s confinement and wondered if it was temporary. He hoped it was permanent.
As he smoked, he worried. If anything happens to those boys . . .
Owen R. Minter was inspired to write The Shrouded Sword, a fantasy story filled with ancient magic and time travel, after creating a drawing based on Arthurian legend. The Shrouded Sword is the first book in the Gramarye Cycle series. When he’s not writing, Owen makes paintings with a leaf blower, reads, and enjoys coaching Special Olympics Athletics.
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