Todd frogley and the cam.., p.1
Todd Frogley and the Camelot Knigtmare, p.1
Todd Frogley and The Camelot Knightmare
Book 1 of The Colliderscope Series
Will B Riley
Copyright © Will B Riley 2017
This series of books is dedicated to all those kids who think they have no talent.
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‘You’re sending me where?’
Todd Frogley looked up from the noisy electronic game he was playing. Mrs Frogley continued packing the bag.
‘I’m sending you to your Uncle Silas’s place, as I’ve been telling you for the past ten minutes. If you took your mind off that silly game thing for a second you’d have heard me.’
It was true that it took something startling to take his attention from his electronic games but this was startling.
‘Uncle Silas? But you always said he was a nutcase. Why do I have to stay with him?’
‘I never said he was a nutcase. I said he was eccentric.’ Lily Frogley’s uncle had been a university professor until disagreements with his colleagues had forced him to retire.
‘You said ‘odd’. Anyway, he’s your uncle, not mine.’
His mother zipped Todd’s bag closed. ‘He’s your great–uncle, and yes, he’s a bit … different, but very clever. And you’re going to him because your dad and I can’t take you with us on our business trip and I couldn’t find anyone else who’d take a twelve–year–old boy for a whole week.’
‘I could stay with …’
‘You’re going to your uncle’s and that’s that. I don’t want any more argument about it.’
Todd had been about to suggest his best friend Oscar’s house but he knew from experience that when Mum said that’s that, that was that. It would only be for a week anyway. How bad could it be?
‘This is your stop, son.’
Todd struggled out of a deep and peaceful sleep to find the train guard shaking him by the shoulder. He blinked and rubbed his eyes, not immediately registering where he was. The train carriage had been so warm and cosy he’d fallen asleep soon after waving goodbye to Mum and Dad.
‘This is Little Puddingly–On–The–Moor. That’s where your folks said to let you off, right?’
Todd nodded sleepily and reached up for his bag. He rubbed clear a part of the fogged–up window and looked out. There was nothing to see but grey mist. “Where’s the station?”
“It’s there, what there is of it. You get a lot of days like this on the moor.”
As Todd stepped out on to the platform the vague outline of a tall figure appeared out of the fog like something from a Dracula movie. He shivered, only partly from the cold evening air.
‘Are you there, Professor?’ The guard called out into the fog.
‘I’m here. Thank you, Denis.’ The voice was deep and growly. It made Todd want to get straight back onto the train, but it was too late. The carriage door closed and the train moved off to disappear into the fog.
‘Todd, right? Follow me.’
The shadowy figure turned and strode away. Todd grabbed his bag and hurried to keep up, forced to stay close or the fog would have swallowed up the man totally.
Unable to see where the platform ended he stumbled down the steps but managed to stay upright. After a few yards the shape of a vehicle appeared and solidified. Even in the fog he could see that it was a beat up old Landrover. He tossed his bag in the back and climbed into the passenger seat. He looked across at his uncle and saw that his uncle was looking across at him.
‘So you’re Todd eh? Haven’t seen you since your christening. How old are you now?’
‘I’m twelve, Sir.’
In the interior light’s weak illumination Todd saw that his Uncle Silas was not so scary. The vampire look the fog had given him was nothing more than the upturned collar of his overcoat. With his bushy eyebrows, strong nose, white beard, and hair that curled over his collar he appeared to be about eighty.
‘No need to call me ‘Sir’. Nobody calls me that anymore.’ He started the ignition and drove slowly out of the station parking area. Todd wondered how he could see where he was driving. Visibility was no more than a few yards and the car’s lights simply bounced off the wall of fog.
‘Nobody calls me anything any more, least of all ‘Professor’. You can call me Uncle.’
Neither man nor boy spoke again for several minutes. Uncle Silas was too busy peering ahead or trying to see where he was driving by sticking his head out of the window. Todd thought he’d better try making conversation.
‘What were you a professor of, Uncle?’
‘Antiquities, professor of Antiquities at Oxford, until they forced me to retire. Said my discoveries were unscientific. Closer to sorcery than scientific principles, they said. Bah! Wouldn’t even allow me to demonstrate what I’d learned. Idiots! Couldn’t separate alternate realities from their concept of sorcery. Realities, I told them, not sorcery. Sorcery is fake. Alternate realities are real. I can prove it!’
Todd hadn’t the slightest idea what alternate realities were. He asked no more questions but listened politely as his uncle muttered insults about his former university colleagues. After what seemed an age the car passed through a stone gateway and pulled to a stop. Filtered by the fog, yellow light from a window showed that they had arrived at a house. Todd exited the car and followed his uncle inside. The house was low–ceilinged with old–fashioned furniture. Uncle Silas led him up a narrow flight of stairs and showed Todd the room he’d be sleeping in.
‘Drop your gear in here then come downstairs. Thought you might be hungry so I made some supper for you.’
Downstairs Todd found his uncle in the kitchen. A plate of something was on the table. He wasn’t sure what it was but it smelled good and tasted better.
‘Todd,’ Uncle Silas said. He was not addressing his nephew but musing on the name. ‘Funny name, Todd Frogley. Bet they call you Toad at school.’
Todd nodded. ‘And ‘Froggy’. And sometimes ‘Toady Frog’. I hate it.’
Professor Maxwell laughed. ‘I would too. Blame your mother. Lily never should have married a man with the surname Frogley then named her son Todd. What was she thinking?’
Todd decided he might like his uncle after all. After the meal he took his game player from his pocket as usual but found its battery had run down. He hated when that happened. He felt naked without it and rarely forgot to charge it. Oh well, he’d have to get the charger from his bag. He said goodnight to Uncle Silas and went to his room. He was so tired that by the time he’d changed into his pyjamas he’d totally forgotten and fell asleep without looking for the charger.
Todd woke up to find sharp sunlight piercing his eyes, which was strange because he always closed his curtains before getting into bed. It took him a moment or two to realise this wasn’t his own room. He pulled the sheet up over his eyes to black out the glare. Sunlight, that meant the fog had lifted. He’d go out and explore the town later, maybe buy that new game for his game player. The birthday money from Aunt Jenny would be more than enough. He threw back the blankets and sat on the edge of the bed, yawning and rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
His room had a low, sloping ceiling with dark wooden beams, and the kind of window that, seen from outside, would jut out of the roof like the ones he’d seen in pictures of old houses. And you could tell this house was old. A grown up person would have to bend down to get into this room. He padded in his pyjamas through the door and across the corridor to the bathroom. While washing his hands he glanced out of the room’s little round window to see what the world outside was like.
He blinked a couple of times, then moved closer. Where were the houses? Where were the telegraph poles, people, cars? Where were the roads? There was nothing to see but featureless rolling hills to the horizon. The house must be on the edge of town, he decided. The buildings would be visible from the other side. He went back to the bedroom where the window was bigger. No buildings, no traffic. Where on Earth was this place? He dressed quickly and went downstairs. He found his uncle in the kitchen.
‘Morning, Todd. Wondered when you’d wake up. It’s six–o–clock. Half the day gone already. Hope you like porridge.’
Porridge was not among his top hundred favourite breakfast cereals but he sat at the table and ate it to be polite. While eating he fished his game player from his pocket.
‘Uncle Silas, where can I recharge this?’
The professor held out his hand for the instrument and inspected it. ‘What is it? One of those new–fangled telephones that you can carry around with you?’
‘No, it’s for playing games on.
‘Is it? Well, whatever will they think of next?’ He turned over the object in his hand. ‘Nothing here this will plug into.’
“It just plugs into a normal electric socket.’
‘That’s what I meant.’ The professor said. ‘We’re not on mains electricity here. Too isolated. My old generator’s more reliable anyway.’
Todd began to fear the worst, a week cut off from his games. ‘Do you have any triple–A size batteries?’
‘Nope. Just D size that I use in my flashlight. The village shop might have some though.’
‘Oh, Ok. How far is it?’
‘The village? Six miles.’
‘Six …!?’ Todd had never walked further than the half–mile to school. Oh, well, sooner or later his uncle would need to drive there. He’d watch TV until then. Twenty minutes later, after exploring a house full of odd corners and unexpected staircases and corridors, he returned to find Professor Maxwell in the dining room, writing and surrounded by books.
‘I can’t find the television.’
The professor didn’t look up from his work. ‘Don’t have one, waste of time. Nothing on anyway I’m told.’
Todd’s mind tried to grapple with this. No television? They had three at home. Was there such a thing as a house with no television?
‘Got a wireless,’ his uncle said.
Todd felt a momentary surge of hope, Wi–Fi would do. Then he realised in his uncle’s world ‘wireless’ was a word for ‘radio’.
‘Only picks up classical music and news stations though.’
‘What about a computer?’ Todd was ever optimistic.
‘Got no need for one. Wouldn’t know how to use it if I did. If I want to do research Midford library’s only forty miles up the road.
Todd was toying with the idea that he’d died and gone to Hell. No TV, no radio, no computer, no electronic games. It was too ridiculous to grasp.
Professor Maxwell looked up from his writing. ‘What do you want to watch television for anyway with the sun shining outside? When I was your age …’
Todd listened politely to the kind of stuff he’d heard other old people say;
How they’d made their own fun, how they’d fed the chickens or milked the cows or shovelled snow before breakfast then trudged ten miles to school barefoot. Then after school if there were no other chores to do had played outside until dark. It all sounded so dismal. He was almost glad when Uncle Silas told him to go and enjoy the outdoors.
Outdoors was as dull as he’d expected. The house was made of stone and looked like it had been there for centuries. There was a courtyard with a gate flanked by two stone columns. The crumbling stone barn to one side held nothing of interest. He walked right around the house. On all sides was nothing but empty moorland with the occasional clump of trees. He looked up at the complex roof with its many chimneys. A window jutting from the roof he recognised must be his room, but there was a similar window in another section of the roof. He thought he’d explored the whole house but he couldn’t remember seeing another room beside his own with that kind of window. He must have missed one.
Back inside the house it took him a frustrating half hour before he discovered another narrow staircase. He’d missed it first time because it was hidden behind a door he’d thought was a cupboard. The stairs led up to a locked door. Why would it be locked? Oh, well, he’d ask his uncle about it.
‘It’s locked for a reason,” Professor Maxwell said. “That’s where I keep certain artefacts relating to my research into alternate realities. Artefacts that, if my university colleagues knew about, they wouldn’t be so quick to ridicule my work. But I’ll make certain they don’t get to see them, one artefact in particular, until I’m good and ready. And I don’t want you poking around there either, Todd. It could be dangerous. Understand?’
Todd said he understood but privately he thought if the professor’s colleagues could hear him now they’d send for the men in white coats. But his curiosity was stirred. If the room was kept locked then what was inside had to be more interesting than what he’d seen so far.
His opportunity came sooner than he expected. Later that day he was in that part of the house when he heard his uncle’s footsteps. Rather than think up an excuse for being there he hid behind a door. Through the gap between door and wall he watched Professor Maxwell carry an armload of books up the hidden staircase. A key scraped in a lock. A moment later the professor came back down the stairs, closed the door and dropped something into a vase on a small table. When he left Todd sneaked out and looked in the vase. At the bottom lay a key. Within half a minute he was up the stairs and inside the room.
At first glance the room was little more interesting than the other rooms in the house. Glass–fronted bookcases lined the walls and several large volumes lay open on an antique wooden desk. A table held jars of powder, vials of liquid and an ornate wooden box some twelve inches long. Optical instruments lay scattered about, many resembling small, crudely–made telescopes. On a stand a half–finished glass lens gleamed dully.
Todd opened the wooden box. Inside, resting on red velvet, lay a cylindrical object. He took it out and inspected it. It was made of brass and leather and was about eight inches long, the leather intricately tooled in strange patterns. There was a leather strap attached for carrying it. It resembled a small telescope, except that it didn’t expand. He put one end to his eye.
A kaleidoscope. But the inscription on the box spelled it ‘Colliderscope’. He’d seen them before but none had been as spectacular as this. The others had been cheap cardboard tubes that when you shook them little pieces of coloured paper or crystals formed pretty patterns similar to magnified snowflakes, according to the arrangement of mirrors inside the tube. This ‘colliderscope’ was the Rolls Royce version of a kaleidoscope. When he shook it the patterns swirled about as if they were liquid for several seconds before settling. The images were breathtaking. They didn’t form the regular snowflake type patterns. Instead, if you looked long enough you could imagine you were looking at pictures. After experimenting for some time Todd took his eye from the end and inspected the intricate tooling on the leather. That was when he noticed a sort of sliding switch that was easily mistaken for a part of the carving. He slid the switch along and looked through the tube to see what effect it had.
Oh wow! What a difference. The circular scene now seemed lit up as if by sunlight. The swirling rainbows took a lot longer to settle, but when they did you didn’t have to imagine a picture. It was right there as real as life, a pretty rural scene with woodlands and rolling hills. And it wasn’t static. When he moved the tube it moved the scene. He turned in a circle and was able to see all around the scene as if he was actually there and looking about him.
He felt suddenly dizzy. When he fell forward it was like being sucked through a straw and being turned inside out while on a whirling carnival ride, then spat out. He landed heavily on grass in front of a dozen galloping horses.
Todd suppressed a scream as the leading horse, a massive hairy–footed monster, skidded to a stop in a cloud of dust a foot away from him. The unfortunate rider catapulted over its head and crashed to the ground. By some miracle the rest of the riders managed to avoid Todd and the fallen man.
When Todd opened his eyes he saw, through a cloud of dust, that all the riders had pulled up their mounts. Some leapt from their saddles and hurried to their injured companion.
‘Sorry! Sorry! Todd shouted, not sure what he was saying sorry for since he’d done nothing wrong, and since all this wasn’t real anyway. A hand reached down and lifted him by the scruff of the neck. That seemed real enough.
‘I have the culprit,’ the man holding him shouted. ‘How fares the king?’
‘The king lives,’ one of those fussing around the fallen man replied. ‘No thanks to that varlet. Bring him here.’
Todd’s captor rode his horse forward and flung the boy to the ground as if he weighed nothing. The fallen man had by now raised himself to his elbow, wincing in pain. Even lying down Todd could see that he was a big man, broad shouldered and heavily bearded. He was dressed in armour like a medieval knight. A sword hung at his waist. A few feet away a shield lay where it had fallen. All the men were dressed that way.
‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ Todd repeated. ‘I didn’t mean … I didn’t see you coming.’
A blow on the back of his head sent him sprawling again.
‘You don’t speak to the king, boy, unless he gives you permission.’
That made Todd angry. Grown men playing at being knights was one thing, hitting a kid was going too far. That blow had hurt. When he turned he saw the reason why. The man who had hit him was wearing chain mail gloves.
‘Hey! I already said sorry. You didn’t have to hit me!’
Todd Frogley and the Camelot Knigtmare by Will B. Riley / Fantasy have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on30 votes