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The quillan games, p.1
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       The Quillan Games, p.1

           D. J. MacHale
 
The Quillan Games


  PENDRAGON

  JOURNAL OF AN ADVENTURE

  THROUGH TIME AND SPACE

  Book One: The Merchant of Death

  Book Two: The Lost City of Faar

  Book Three: The Never War

  Book Four: The Reality Bug

  Book Five: Black Water

  Book Six: The Rivers of Zadaa

  Book Seven: The Quillan Games

  Coming Soon:

  Book Eight: Pendragon the Great

  CONTENTS

  Preface

  Journal #24: Quillan

  Second Earth

  Journal #25: Quillan

  Second Earth

  Journal #26: Quillan

  Second Earth

  Journal #27: Quillan

  Second Earth

  For my sister Kathie,

  who loves to play games and tell great stories

  PREFACE

  A great big greeting to everyone in Halla.

  The flume beckons. It’s time to jump in for another trip. For those of you new to the story, welcome. For everyone who has followed Bobby’s adventure from the beginning, the next pieces of the puzzle are here for you. Many questions will be answered in these pages. Of course, just as many will be raised. That’s the way it works in Halla when you’re trying to keep pace with a demon who loves to confound and torment. I’m not talking about Saint Dane, I’m talking about me. Muhahahahahaha!

  As always I want to send out a great big thanks to all you readers who have been loyally following the story. From Canada to China to Australia and all points in between, more and more people are stepping into the flume. I especially have to thank all readers who have been sending me mail to discuss the story. One of the favorite parts of my day is sitting down to read about your thoughts and answer your questions. Or should I say, answer some of your questions. Everybody knows I don’t like to be a spoiler and give away secrets. That would be cheating.

  As with all my books, I’d like to thank some of the many people who help bring them to you. The wonderful folks at Simon & Schuster have been great supporters from the beginning. Rick Richter, Ellen Krieger, Jenn Zatorski, Kelly Stidham, and so many others are hugely responsible for keeping the Pendragon story rolling. My editor, Julia Richardson, has once again been a great help in getting the best possible story out of my sometimes muddled brain. If you think these stories have lots of twists and turns that are sometimes tricky to follow, try writing them! Thank you, Julia. Victor Lee has created one of my favorite covers with this book. It’s great to see each of his individual covers, but also to see them all together. It’s visual proof of how far we’ve all come. Heidi Hellmich did an amazing job of copyediting this book. When you jump around through time and space, it’s tough keeping all those tenses straight, but Heidi has managed to do it yet again. Amazing. Of course I have to thank my continuing band of acolytes: Richard Curtis, Peter Nelson and his team, and Danny Baror. They are all responsible for worrying about the many details of the book business that make my head hurt. Thank you, guys. My wife, Evangeline, is my constant source of support and encouragement. Without her calming assurances, I’d probably be throwing out more work than I keep and these books would take years to write! Finally, my daughter, Keaton, has provided me with one of the most satisfying experiences I think a writer can have. She wasn’t even born when the adventure began and the first few books were published. Now, at two and a half years old, when we walk through a bookstore she’ll point to the Pendragon shelf and exclaim: “Daddy’s book!” It does my heart proud. Of course she then blows right past them and heads straight for the Dr. Seuss section, but that’s another story. These are only a few of the people who have helped bring Bobby Pendragon’s story to you, and I sincerely thank all of them.

  Okay. Are we done here? Are we ready? When last we were with Bobby, he had received a mysterious invitation that brought him to the territory of Quillan; Mark had saved Courtney’s life, though she lay near death in a hospital on Second Earth; and Andy Mitchell had performed a most curious and impossible deed. With all that has happened and all that is still to come, there’s one question that must now be asked:

  Do you like to play games?

  Hobey ho, let’s go.

  —D. J. MacHale

  JOURNAL #24

  QUILLAN

  I like to play games.

  Always have. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple game of checkers or something more brainy, like chess. I like board games like Stratego or Risk, and pretty much every team sport that exists. I like playing computer games and card games and charades and Scrabble, and when I was a kid, I was known to play a killer game of red rover. I like to win, too. Doesn’t everybody? But I’m not one of those guys who has to win constantly or I get all cranky. Why bother? When I lose, I’ll be upset for about half a second, then move on. For me, playing a game is all about the fun of the contest and seeing the best player win, whoever that may be.

  At least that’s the way I used to think.

  What I found here on the territory of Quillan is that games are a very big part of the culture. All kinds of games. So given the fact that I like games so much, you’d think hanging out here would be pretty cool, right?

  Wrong. Really, really wrong. Games are about being challenged and plotting and developing skills and finding strategy and having fun. That’s all true on Quillan . . . except for the fun part. There’s nothing fun about what goes on here. On this territory games are deadly serious. When you play on Quillan, you had better win, because the price of defeat is too high. I’ve seen what happens when people lose. It’s not pretty. Or fun. I’m only beginning to learn about this new and strange territory, but there’s one thing that’s already been seared into my brain: Whatever happens, don’t lose. It’s as simple as that. Do not lose. Better advice would be to not play at all, but that doesn’t seem to be an option here on Quillan. When you live here, you play.

  You win, or you pay.

  As ominous as that sounds, I’ve got to accept it because I know these games will somehow factor into the battle against Saint Dane. He’s here. This is the next territory he’s after. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. He sent me a big-old invitation. I already told you about that in my last journal. But there’s more—something I didn’t write last time. You see, another Traveler was here before me. I’m not talking about the Traveler from Quillan. I mean someone from another territory. I don’t want to tell you much more about it until I reach that point in this journal. My story should play out on these pages as it happened. The way I saw it. But I will say this much: I’m angry. Angrier than I’ve ever been since becoming a Traveler. If Saint Dane thinks challenging me to playing games is the best way to bring down Quillan, he’s in for a big surprise. He picked the wrong battleground, because I like to play games. I’m good. And I’m mad. Bring it on.

  Mark, Courtney, the last time I wrote to you guys was from a fairytale-like castle here on Quillan. There was way more I wanted to write in that journal, but I didn’t think I had the time to get it all down. Besides, the information I gave you in my last journal was pretty intense all by itself. I needed to write all of that down while it was still fresh in my memory. I’m not sure why I was so worried. There’s no chance I could ever forget what happened during my last few minutes on Zadaa. No matter how many different ways I look at it, or try to understand it, or search for a reasonable explanation for what happened, I keep coming back to the same undeniable fact:

  Loor was killed, and she came back from the dead.

  No, let me rephrase that: I think I helped Loor come back from the dead. If I live to be a hundred, I can’t imagine a single day going by without reliving what happened in that cave deep below the sands of Xhaxhu. I know I already wrote
about this, but I can’t get it out of my head. Those few minutes keep coming back to me like a movie that only gets so far before it automatically rewinds and plays again. Of course, the outcome never changes. Saint Dane murdered Loor. I saw it. He blasted out of the flume and drove a sword straight through her heart. She didn’t have time to react, let alone defend herself. He killed her in cold blood. Though she was gone, I didn’t get the chance to grieve, because I wanted revenge. What followed was a fight to the death between me and the demon Traveler. Or so I thought. The thing is, I beat him. I fought him like a crazed madman because, well, I was a crazed madman. I guess seeing someone you love murdered in cold blood would send anybody off the deep end.

  Saint Dane and I fought as if we both knew only one of us was getting out of that tunnel alive. It was a vicious, violent battle that could have gone either way. But in the end he made a fatal mistake. He thought he had won, and charged in for the kill. I grabbed the very sword that he had used to kill Loor and swept it into place. My aim was perfect. Instead of finishing me off, he drove himself into the weapon. To the hilt, just as he had driven the sword into Loor moments before. I won. Saint Dane was dead. The nightmare was over. But my victory didn’t last long. His body transformed into a black mist that floated away from the sword and re-formed at the mouth of the flume. I looked up to see the demon standing there calmly, not looking any worse for wear. He stood there in his original form, standing well over six feet tall, wearing that dark Asian-looking suit. The lightning-bolt red scars on his bald head seemed to pulse with blood. It was the only sign that he had exerted himself at all. But what I couldn’t stop looking at, as usual, were his blue-white eyes. They locked on me and held me tight, taking away what little breath I had left. We stayed that way for a long moment, staring, waiting for the other to make a move. But the fight was over. He gave me a cold, knowing smile as if to say everything had happened exactly as he had planned.

  “I see you are capable of rage,” he said cockily. “I will remember that.”

  “How could you . . . ?” I gasped in shock.

  “Didn’t Press tell you how futile it would be to try to kill me?” he said with a smirk. He kept his eyes on me and shouted into the flume, “Quillan!”

  The flume came to life. I didn’t have the strength, or the will, to stop him. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have known how.

  “Zadaa has been such an amusing diversion,” the demon said. “In spite of what you may think, Pendragon, this isn’t over. I can lick my wounds and move on.” He glanced down at Loor’s lifeless body and added, “The question is, can you?”

  The light from the flume enveloped the monster. He took a step back and was gone. As the light disappeared, I could hear his maniacal laugh fading away.

  Have I told you how much I hate that guy?

  When I turned to Loor, I saw that I was too late. She was dead. I’m no doctor, but it didn’t take one to know that she was gone. Blood was everywhere. She wasn’t breathing. She had no heartbeat. I stared down at her, not believing that it was true.

  It was only the night before that I had told her I loved her by trying to give her a kiss. But she turned away. I was crushed. It had taken every bit of courage I had to admit I had such strong feelings for her, but with that one small gesture she let me know that it was not meant to be.

  She told me, though, that she had deep feelings for me too. She said, “We are on a mission, Pendragon. No group of people have ever been given such a monumental responsibility. We must prevail. We must stop Saint Dane. That is our quest. We are warriors. We will fight together again. We cannot allow emotions to cloud our judgment in any way. That is why I cannot be with you.”

  It hurt to hear that, but she was right. We would fight together again. Letting our emotions get in the way of that, even in a small way, would be a mistake. Whatever feelings we had for each other would have to be put aside until the time was right. Or so I thought at the time. The next day I watched as Saint Dane killed her. As I sat there in that cavern, with my hand over her mortal wound, a million thoughts and feelings rushed through me. None were good. I had lost my friend. She was not only someone I loved, but my best ally in the battle against Saint Dane. The gut-wrenching realization began to settle in that the time for us would never be right, because she was gone. I found myself wishing with every ounce of my being that it wasn’t true.

  And she woke up. Simple as that, she opened her eyes. Her wound was gone too. Like it had never been there. But it had been there. I swear. The drying blood on her black leather armor was proof of that. It was un-freaking-believable. Since that moment I’ve tried to make sense of what happened. But how can you make sense of the impossible?

  Sorry for repeating all of that, but as hard as it is for me to understand what actually happened in that cave, it’s almost as troubling to wonder what it might mean for the future. My future. Up until then a few things had happened with the Travelers that made me think we aren’t exactly, oh, how should I put it? Normal. I had been injured pretty badly on Zadaa, and healed faster than seemed possible. The same happened with Alder from Denduron. He was hit in the chest with a steel arrow that should have killed him. But his wound healed quickly, and he recovered so fast it was like it had never happened. But healing quickly and coming back from the dead are two different things. Still, it’s not like we Travelers can’t die. We can. If we were invincible, then Uncle Press, Seegen, Spader’s dad, Osa, and Kasha would still be around. It’s not like we can’t be hurt, either. I’ve taken the lumps and felt the pain to prove it.

  But I’ve seen three Travelers take mortal wounds . . . and live to tell the tale. Loor, Alder, and Saint Dane. I hate to put my friends in the same category as that monster, but after all, he is a Traveler too. On the other hand, Saint Dane is capable of doing some things that the rest of us can’t. I can’t transform myself into other people. Believe me, I tried. Once. I felt pretty stupid afterward too. How do you “will” yourself to become somebody else? I closed my eyes, concentrated my thoughts, and said to myself: Become Johnny Depp. Nothing happened. Maybe I should have been more specific and thought: Become Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as opposed to Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. It all seemed so silly. Especially since nothing happened. I didn’t even bother trying to think: I want to become black smoke and drift across the room. If I couldn’t become Johnny Depp, no way was I turning to smoke. Bottom line is, Saint Dane may be a Traveler, but he’s operating on a whole nother level than we are.

  Still, both he and Loor came back from the dead. There was no getting around that. I wondered if it was possible that I had something to do with Loor’s recovery. But I was with Uncle Press when he died. Same with Kasha. Neither of them came back. When I try to relive each of those final, horrible moments, the only thing I can think of that was different with Loor was that it happened so quickly, and I was so totally stunned that I didn’t allow myself to believe it was real. It sounds crazy, but it was like I wouldn’t accept her death. I didn’t want to let it happen . . . and it didn’t. She woke up. I know, impossible, right? But it’s true.

  I suppose I shouldn’t be so upset about it. The ability for a Traveler to “will” another Traveler into staying alive is a pretty good thing. To be honest, it gives me a lot more confidence in our battle against Saint Dane. Not that I want to try it out again. No way. Testing death is not high on my “to do” list. As nifty as that might be, the idea leads me to some truly disturbing thoughts. I’ve always questioned the reasons that I was chosen to be a Traveler. I don’t think you’ll find a more normal guy than me. But after this whole healing/coming back from the dead thing, I’m beginning to wonder just how normal we Travelers really are. Uncle Press said that my mom and dad weren’t my real parents, but he never told me who my real parents are. That starts me thinking. Where exactly did I come from? Knowing that my family disappeared along with every scrap of evidence that any of us ever existed defies every law of nature, yet it happened.
It seems as if all the Travelers have had similar experiences. Each of us was raised on our own territory, yet none of us has a history to show for it.

  I guess the overriding feeling I’m left with is sadness. Ever since I left home, my goal had been to get back to my normal life. It was the single biggest driving factor in everything I’d done since stepping into the flume for the first time.

  I’m not thinking that way anymore.

  This is tough to admit, but I’m beginning to wonder if I truly belong on Second Earth. I miss you guys more than I can say, but my family is gone. It’s as if some grand cosmic entity highlighted everything to do with Bobby Pendragon, and hit the delete key. What would I say if people asked me where I came from? What would I say? “Well, I grew up in Stony Brook, Connecticut, but my entire history was wiped out, and my family disappeared right after I left through a flume to battle a demon who was trying to crush all of existence. Pass the salt.” I don’t think so.

  I don’t say this to make you guys feel sorry for me. Just the opposite. These journals are about writing down all that happens to me as a Traveler, so that when this cosmic battle with Saint Dane is over, there will be a record. And for the record, I’m fine. But there’s nothing more important to me than finding the truth. About me, about my family, and about Saint Dane. I have to stop this guy. Not only for the sake of Halla, but for me, too. I have absolute faith that once he is stopped for good, the journey will lead me to the truth. That goal is what keeps me going. I’m going to try to not question so much, keep my head down, and get it done. Getting it done means stopping Saint Dane. That’s why I’m on Quillan.

  I wrote to you in my last journal how, shortly after Loor rejoined the living, she and I stood at the flume while it activated and deposited a brightly colored square box in front of us. It had red and yellow stripes and was tied up with a big red bow. Hanging from the ribbon was a yellow tag with the word PENDRAGON written in fancy red lettering. Loor unfolded the tag and we saw that written inside were the words: “With my compliments. S.D.” Right. Saint Dane. (It was either that or South Dakota, but that didn’t make any sense.) I didn’t know what to make of the box. The demon had just murdered Loor, had fought me to the death, was killed and had come back to life, and now he was sending me a birthday gift. And it wasn’t even my birthday. Compared to that, maybe getting a present from South Dakota wouldn’t have been so odd. Welcome to my twisted world. Fearing that something nasty would be inside, I squinted when I pulled off the top. What jumped out was nasty indeed. At least to me. You remember, right? Springing out was a jack-in-the-box clown. It was a scary-looking thing with a hideous smile and a court jester’s hat. In fact, pretty much all clowns are scary-looking to me. I hate clowns. I wondered if Saint Dane knew that. The clown laughed with some recorded cackle as it bobbled on the spring. It sounded familiar. Swell.

 
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