The kingdom of the lost.., p.1
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       The Kingdom of the Lost Book 1, p.1

           Isobelle Carmody
 
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The Kingdom of the Lost Book 1


  THE RED WIND

  The Kingdom of the Lost

  When a devastating red wind sweeps across the land, brothers Bily and Zluty are forced to fight for their survival and journey into the perilous unknown.

  A magical new series for younger readers from the award-winning author of Little Fur.

  ISOBELLE CARMODY

  THE RED WIND

  The Kingdom of the Lost

  BOOK 1

  PENGUIN | VIKING

  Also by Isobelle Carmody

  Scatterlings

  The Gathering

  Green Monkey Dreams

  This Way Out (with Steve Taylor)

  Greylands

  Alyzon Whitestarr

  The Obernewtyn Chronicles

  Obernewtyn

  The Farseekers

  Ashling

  The Keeping

  The Stone Key

  The Sending

  The Legendsong

  Darkfall

  Darksong

  The Gateway Trilogy

  Billy Thunder and the Night Gate

  The Winter Door

  The Legend of Little Fur

  Little Fur

  A Fox Called Sorrow

  A Mystery of Wolves

  A Riddle of Green

  Contents

  one: STONEFALL

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  two: RAINFALL

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  three: HEARTFALL

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  THE KINGDOM OF THE LOST

  About the Author

  Acknowledgements

  To Adelaide,

  for whom Zluty and Bily came to life

  1

  Once there lived two brothers in a cottage in the middle of a vast bare plain. Their names were Zluty and Bily. Both brothers had the same grey eyes and pink cheeks, the same small black noses and round ears with just a hint of pointiness in them. But Zluty’s fur was yellow, and Bily’s was white and soft and his tail was longer.

  Bily was rather timid. He was also patient and very good at coaxing to life the seeds brought to him from afar by his bird friends. He spent each afternoon in the vivid garden he had wooed from the hard stony earth of the plain. As well as a wild confusion of flowers, there were many bushes and plants that produced fruit or vegetables. Bily would gather these and make delicious jams and preserves and sauces, or he would dry them. These were important to the brothers, for Winter on the plain was long and harsh and nothing grew.

  Bily loved his garden and he loved cooking but most of all he loved the sturdy cottage that he and Zluty had built. Its walls were made from stones of various colours and sizes gathered from the plain. Its roof was made of tough grass woven into tiles laid over thick pieces of wood. The tiles were bound together so that they fitted tightly against one another, and on the rare occasions when it rained not a single drop leaked through. Inside the hut was the small stone oven where Bily baked bread and pies. In Winter he and Zluty would sit close to its open mouth and warm their toes and fingers while the icy winds blew outside. Bily loved the oven and his small bed in its nook by the window, and the wooden table and two chairs that Zluty had made for them to sit on when they ate. But best of all he loved the big cave under the cottage, which served as a cellar.

  Here, all the pots of preserves and jams and chutneys he made in Summer and Autumn stood in rows alongside urns of honey, bales of sweetgrass, woven sacks of grain and rice and flour, and great mounds of ground cones. There were two neat doors in the floor of the cottage that opened to reveal the steps they had dug down to the cellar. There was a second entrance outside the cottage, with a ladder, but they usually only used this for big or dirty things that could not be brought through the cottage.

  Bily sometimes went down to the cellar just to look at everything that he and Zluty had so carefully prepared for the Winter to come, and to admire his store of seeds and bulbs. Occasionally, he would open the stopper of one of the urns of honey, or the smaller jugs of tree sap, and smell the richness that flowed out into the air. Then he would press the stopper back into its place and give a great sigh of pleasure at how wonderfully safe it all made him feel.

  Zluty also cherished their cottage and its well-stocked cellar, but what he loved most was to think about the immense and mysterious forest that grew at the northern edge of the world.

  Bily had never been to the Northern Forest, but Zluty made one long journey there each Autumn to gather mushrooms and tree sap and honey. It took four days for him to reach the edge of the forest, two days to forage, and four days to return. Zluty knew his brother worried about him the whole ten days he was away. No tale he had ever told about the wonders of the forest or the pleasure of camping out on the plain could reassure Bily. When Zluty spoke of how beautifully deep and mysterious the forest was, Bily thought only of how it would feel to be lost in the trackless, lightless darkness beneath the dense canopy of leaves and branches. And what if Zluty never found his way out of the forest again? Or what if he did, but he came out the wrong side. What if, in his eagerness to get back into the light, Zluty rushed out and fell off the edge of the world?

  However, Bily knew that they needed all that his brother brought back from the forest if they were to survive the long hard Winter, and so he tried not to talk of his fears.

  Fortunately, aside from this one long journey, the other foraging trips Zluty made were shorter, the longest taking him away from the cottage for only two nights. There was a patch of deep flavourful orange roots that grew a day away from the cottage to the East. When these were in season Zluty would go and dig up enough to thicken stews and soups and to flavour bread for the whole Winter and drag them back to the cottage on a wheeled pallet he had made out of a piece of the egg that he and Bily had hatched from. Zluty always managed to return before dusk on the third day, despite stopping on the way to cut a load of sweetgrass to refresh their mattresses.

  A day to the South of the cottage was a field of the tough grass they used to weave roof tiles for the cottage. Zluty harvested the grass in mid-Autumn so that he and Bily would have enough time to weave the tiles and replace any that had become thin or ragged before Winter.

  A half day South beyond the tough grass was a crop of wild rice. It grew in a patch of rare swampy ground on the bone-dry plain, and was inhabited by clouds of biting insects. To gather the rice, Zluty had to rub mud into his cheeks and hands to stop the insects biting him, and when entering the swamp he had to be very careful not to step on the blackclaw nests clustered all around the edges of the swamp. But the worst part was that he had to wade into black muddy water that reached right up to his middle.

  A further half-day’s walk was a field of wild wheat where Zluty harvested grain to grind into the flour Bily used to make bread and pancakes and pie crusts.

  Not far from the wheat, to the East, was a wide field of sharp, unfriendly plants with prickles and fat bulbs that burst open at the end of Summer to reveal tight balls of white fluff. Zluty would gather the fluff balls into enormous light bales, and bring them back on his wheeled pallet for Bily to tease into fleece and spin into thread. During the long Winter he would weave the thread into cloth, or make it into felt for floor rugs.

  Bily had tried to grow all of these wild crops in his garden so that Zluty would never have to travel away from the cottage save once a year w
hen he went to the Northern Forest. But they did not prosper. Bily wondered if perhaps the foreign seeds that the birds had brought him had changed the earth about the cottage so that native plants and grasses would not grow there. Or maybe the wild seeds did not like to be captured and planted in a tamed patch of earth.

  Whatever the reason, Bily had to accept that the trips Zluty made were needful. The truth was that Zluty loved to tie his purple travelling scarf about his neck, shoulder his pack and set off across the plain. This might have saddened Bily, except that Zluty had once told him that he loved the cottage and its garden most of all when he was returning to it from a journey. He would first catch sight of it rising in a little hump from the flat plain, with a smudge of smoke above its chimney stack, and his heart would give a bound of joy. If it was dusk, he would see the light from the little lantern Bily always lit and stood it in the window after the sun set, facing the direction he had gone. Seeing it shining to welcome him, Zluty said his heart would ache with the gladness of coming home.

  The life lived by the two brothers was very full and busy. As each season came and departed to give way to the next they always knew exactly what they had to do. This order and sameness was at the heart of Bily’s contentment, and although Zluty loved to discover new things, and there were times when he dreamed of the deep and alluring mystery of the Northern Forest, he too was content with their lives. So day followed day and season followed season for many peaceful years and the two brothers went about their tasks without either of them having any desire for change.

  Yet change will come, whether it is wanted or not, and so it was that one morning on the day Zluty was to make his annual journey to the Northern Forest, change began to shape itself over their very heads.

  2

  Bily was at the stove carefully preparing the special complicated porridge he always made on this morning to fortify his brother and to keep himself busy so that he would not begin fretting before Zluty had even left the cottage. He was also finishing a pile of pancakes that were to be wrapped up in a woven cloth after they had cooled. They would serve as Zluty’s supper that night when he stopped to camp on the plain.

  Zluty was packing all of the things he would need for the journey, and thinking about a certain small dark-blue berry he had noticed the previous year. It had been growing on a bush in one of the few shafts of sunlight that managed to penetrate the outer edge of the forest canopy. The birds that nested above had warned him that the berries were bad to eat, and so he had not bothered taking any. But a few nights earlier, Bily had been boiling feathergrass to concoct a new dye and sighing over the faintness of the blue colour it produced. Zluty, sanding the new walking staff he had made to take with him on his journey, had suddenly remembered the brightness of the blue berries and the richness of their colour and had made up his mind to bring some of them back as a surprise for Bily. He had already slipped an extra little pottery jar into his pack to hold the berries.

  Zluty glanced above his bed at the beautiful hanging on the wall. Of all his possessions, he loved this best. The colours reminded him of the way the sunlight looked, filtering through the leaves in the Northern Forest. Bily had made it for his bed several years past and Zluty had loved it too much to allow it to be cut up for cleaning rags when Bily decided it was too thin and must be replaced. Zluty had insisted upon hanging it, and it looked so nice and unexpected on the wall that Bily had decided to make a special rug to hang above the long bench where they often sat and talked in the evenings when it was too warm for a fire.

  The thought of his brother’s delight at having a new colour to use made Zluty want to laugh aloud, but he reminded himself that he must first test the berries to make sure the dye was good before he gave them as a gift.

  ‘I am going down to the digger mounds to see if they have milk,’ Bily called from the door. ‘Can you get the last pot of honey out of the cellar?’

  ‘I will just as soon as I have finished this,’ Zluty answered, grunting with the effort of tightening his pack. As he rolled the bedding so that he could bind it to the top of the pack it crackled loudly, for he had stuffed it with fresh sweetgrass the night before.

  Bily came hurrying back inside and Zluty thought he must have forgotten the little wads of white fluff he traded to the diggers for milk, and which they used to soften their burrows. But his brother came straight over to him and said, ‘Oh, Zluty, come and see. It’s horrible!’

  ‘Is it one of the birds?’ Zluty asked. Many birds nested in the eaves of the cottage or in the bushes and small trees growing in the garden, and Bily appeared so upset that Zluty feared some harm must have come to Redwing, whom his brother dearly loved.

  Bily caught hold of Zluty’s hand. ‘It is not any of the birds. It is the sky!’ He tugged his brother through the cottage and out onto the step. ‘Look!’ Bily insisted, pointing away to the West.

  Zluty’s mouth fell open at the sight of a dark red stain spreading against the blue sky just above the horizon. It might have been a cloud saturated with the red dawn light, except it was in the West. He was alarmed, but a tiny part of him thrilled at the newness of it.

  ‘What does it mean?’ Bily asked. His frightened voice quenched the little spark of curiosity and excitement that had kindled in Zluty.

  ‘It is only a storm cloud,’ Zluty said in a reassuring voice.

  ‘But a storm cloud is not red,’ Bily objected.

  He was right, Zluty thought, squinting his eyes at the stain. He said at last, with more certainty than he felt, ‘It is a mist. Mists are sometimes unusual colours, and it might simply have got that high by accident.’

  Bily considered this, and then nodded slowly. ‘A mist could get confused,’ he said. ‘It might have got too high and now it does not know how to get back down to the ground.’

  ‘Exactly,’ said Zluty, relieved to see that his brother’s fluffed-up fur was beginning to settle. ‘If you are nervous, I can easily put off the journey to the Northern Forest for a few days.’

  Bily looked horrified. ‘But you always go on the day after the first bellflower opens.’

  Zluty saw then that in suggesting a change in their routine he had unsettled his brother even more than the queer sky, so he shook his head and pretended it had been a joke. ‘Of course I am going to go today,’ he said. ‘As soon as I have had my porridge.’

  Bily gave a sudden cry and thrust the wads of fluff he had been carrying into his brother’s hand before running inside. Smiling, Zluty went down through the bushes and flowers and beyond the well to the flat dry ground where the diggers lived. He carefully avoided the holes in the ground where there was a single nest of poisonous blackclaws and came to the hump of earth, which was the entrance to the network of burrows and tunnels where the community of diggers dwelt. He stamped his foot three times then squatted down to wait. His smile faded as he studied the red stain just above the Western horizon. It didn’t really look much more like a mist than a storm cloud. But after all, what else could it be?

  ‘Ra!’ squeaked a voice, and Zluty turned his attention to the little digger that had emerged from the entrance to the hump. Zluty announced solemnly that he wished to trade for milk, and then he held out the wads that Bily had thrust into his hand. The digger twitched his shiny little black nose and crept forward to sniff suspiciously at the fluffs. At last he gave a soft ‘Ra’ and withdrew. Moments later, another two diggers appeared at the entrance. One of them carried a small misshapen mug of diggermilk.

  The trade made, the diggers uttered polite squeaks of ‘Ra!’ before scurrying away with their prize. Getting to his feet carefully so as not to spill the milk, Zluty made his way back to the cottage. He regretted that he had not thought to point out the redness in the sky and ask the diggers what they made of it. Not that he would have learned much, for the little creatures had only a few words that meant many different things. Bily said the meaning was all in how those few words were said, but he spent more time with the diggers than Zluty because
they liked to come and watch him when he was at the clay pit by the well, making pots.

  ‘I wish I knew how they make them,’ Bily said, skimming off the cream and then transferring the milk from the digger mugs into the jug they would put on the table. He held up one of the digger mugs and studied it closely. ‘The shape is bad, but light goes through the stuff they are made of, and I am thinking how nice it would be if I could make a cover for the windows from it so that we need not have the shutters closed in Winter. It would let in some light and we would not need to use so many candles. Imagine how pretty it would be with the sun shining through it.’

  Zluty carried the jug of milk to the table, which was already set for his breakfast. He could tell from Bily’s chatter about the digger mugs that his brother did not want to talk about the queer sky, and so he merely held out his bowl for the hot porridge to be served and then poured on some of the warm creamy diggermilk and dribbled in a little honey and a sprinkling of nuts and dried berries. Bily served his own porridge and then there was no talk for a time.

  Zluty was still eating the porridge when Bily left the table to wrap up the pancakes and pack them into the space Zluty had left for them.

  ‘You have not packed neatly enough, for there is less space than usual,’ he grumbled.

  Zluty finished the last mouthful of porridge and hurried over to take the pancakes from his brother before Bily emptied the pack and discovered the extra jar he had put in to hold the berries. ‘You see, there is plenty of room for them, and they won’t be the least bit squashed,’ he insisted as he carefully put the pancakes inside one of the bigger pots. He fastened the top flap of the pack and tied his travelling scarf jauntily about his neck.

  Bily helped him put on his pack, and then Zluty took up his new staff and went outside to get his water bottles. These were small and there were many of them. He must carry enough water to travel the full four days to the Northern Forest, and it was easier to carry it in small amounts hung evenly all about him. There were only two springs on the plain. One was beside the cottage and the other was inside a rift in the ground near the Northern Forest. Bily helped him attach the last of the bottles to hooks on the woven strap that ran across Zluty’s chest, and then the two brothers hugged one another warmly.

 
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