Children of the red king.., p.1
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       Children of the Red King Book 04 Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors, p.1

           Jenny Nimmo
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Children of the Red King Book 04 Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors


  Charlie Bone's power takes on a new dimension at Bloor’s Academy in CHARLIE BONE AND THE CASTLE OF MIRRORS . There is a new cast of characters, including Mr. Pilgrim’s replacement, Tantalus Ebony and the mysterious new student Joshua Tilpin, who appears to be magnetic. Billy has adopted by a mysterious couple and is locked up in an odd place called The Passing House. Meanwhile, Charlie and Olivia discover the secret of the Castle of Mirrors, and along with Uncle Paton, they must free Billy before it is too late.

  ************************************

  CONTENTS

  THE ENDOWED CHILDREN

  THE PASSING HOUSE

  PROLOGUE

  BREAKING THE FORCE FIELD

  A FATAL SNEEZE

  THE BATTLE OF OATHS AND SPIRITS

  THE PHANTOM HORSE

  CHILDREN OF THE QUEEN

  THE BOY WITH PAPER IN HIS HAIR

  THE ENCHANTED CAPE

  DETENTION FOR CHARLIE

  THE WALL OF HISTORY

  BILLY'S OATH

  THE BLACK YEW

  ALICE ANGEL

  LOSING THE BALANCE

  THE BOOK OF AMADIS

  OLIVIA'S TALENT

  THE WHITE MOTH

  THE WARRIOR

  A MAN TRAPPED IN GLASS

  THE CAPTIVES' STORY

  THE JAILBIRD

  THE ENDOWED CHILDREN

  The endowed are all descended from the ten children of the Red King, a magician-king who left Africa in the twelfth century accompanied by three leopards.

  The Red King had already lived for several centuries, and he made a marvelous glass sphere, putting into it memories of his life and travels through the world. He used the sphere to twist through time, visiting the past and the future.

  In any other hands, the Time Twister is dangerous and unpredictable.

  ************************************

  THE CHILDREN OE THE RED KING, NAMED THE ENDOWED

  MANFRED BLOOR

  Teaching assistant at Bloor's Academy A hypnotist. He is descended from Borlath, elder son of the Red King. Borlath was a brutal and sadistic tyrant.

  CHARLIE BONE

  Charlie can hear the voices of people in photographs and paintings. He is descended from the Yewbeams, a family with many magical endowments.

  IDETH AND INEZ BRANKO

  Telekinetic twins, distantly related to Zelda Dobinski, who has left Bloor's Academy

  DORCAS LOOM

  An endowed girl whose gift is the ability to bewitch clothes.

  ASA PIKE

  A were-beast. He is descended from a tribe who lived in the northern forests and kept strange beasts. Asa can change shape at dusk.

  BILLY RAVEN

  Billy can communicate with animals. One of his ancestors conversed with ravens that sat on a gallows where dead men hung. For this talent he was banished from his village.

  LYSANDER SAGE

  Descended from an African wise man. He can call up his spirit ancestors.

  GABRIEL SILK

  Gabriel can feel scenes and emotions through the clothes of others. He comes from a line of psychics.

  JOSHUA TILPIN

  Joshua's endowment is magnetism. His origins are, at present, a mystery. Even the Bloors are unsure where he lives. He arrived at their door alone and introduced himself His tuition is paid through a private bank.

  EMMA TOLLY

  Emma can fly. Her surname derives from the Spanish swordsman from Toledo whose daughter married the Red King. The swordsman is therefore an ancestor of all the endowed children.

  TANCRED TORSSON

  A storm-bringer His Scandinavian ancestor was named after the thunder god, Thor. Tancred can bring wind, thunder, and lightning.

  ************************************

  PROLOGUE

  The Red King and his queen were riding by the sea. It was that time of year when the wind carries a hint of frost. Evening clouds had begun to appear, and where the sun could find a way through the gathering dusk, it struck the sea in bands of startling light.

  The king and queen urged their horses home, but all at once, the queen reined in her mount and in absolute stillness stared out across the water. The king, following her gaze, beheld an island of astounding beauty Caught in shafts of sunlight, it sparkled with a thousand shades of blue.

  "Oh," sighed the queen, in a voice of dread.

  "What is it, my heart?" asked the king.

  In the matter of their children the queen's intuition was greater than the king's, and when she saw the Island of a Thousand Blues, it was as if an icy hand had clutched her heart. "The children." Her voice was hardly more than a whisper.

  The king asked his wife which of their nine children concerned her, but the queen couldn't say Yet when they returned to the Red Castle and she saw her two sons, black-browed Borlath and blond Amadis, the queen had a terrible sense of foreboding. She saw black smoke rising from the blue island and flames turning the earth to ash. She saw a castle of shining glass appear in a snowstorm, and when her soul's eye traveled over the glass walls, she saw a boy with hair the color of snow climb from a well and close his eyes against the death that lay all around him.

  "We must never let our children see that island," she told the king. "We must never let them tread on that blue, enchanted earth."

  The king made a promise. But in less than a year the queen would be dead, and the king, bowed down with grief would leave the castle and his children. The queen died nine days after giving birth to her tenth child, a girl named Amoret. A girl whom no one could protect.

  A FATAL SNEEZE

  At the edge of the city Bloor's Academy stood dark and silent under the stars. Tomorrow, 300 children would climb the steps between two towers, cross the courtyard, and crowd through the great oak doors. But for now the old building appeared to be utterly deserted.

  And yet, if you had been standing in the garden, on the other side of the school, you could not have failed to notice the strange lights that occasionally flickered from small windows in the roof. And if you had been able to look through one of these windows, you would have seen Ezekiel Bloor, a very old man, maneuvering his vintage wheelchair into an extraordinary room.

  The laboratory as Ezekiel liked to call it, was a long attic room with wide floorboards and a ceiling of bare rafters. Assorted tables, covered with bottles, books, herbs, bones, and weapons, stood against the walls, while beneath them, a stack of dusty chests protruded into the room, threatening to trip anyone who might pass their way

  Dried and faded plants hung from the rafters, and pieces of armor, suspended from the broad crossbeams, clunked ominously whenever a draft swept past them. They clunked now as Ezekiel moved across the floor.

  The old man's great-grandson, Manfred, was standing beside a trestle table in the center of the room. Manfred had grown during summer vacation, and Ezekiel felt proud that this tall young man had chosen to work with him rather than go off to college like the other seniors. Mind you, despite his height, Manfred had a skinny frame, sallow, blotchy skin, and a face that was all bones and h
ollows.

  At this moment, his face twisted into a grimace of concentration as he shuffled a pile of bones across the table in front of him. Above him hung seven gas jets set into an iron wheel, their bluish flames emitting a faint purr. When he saw his great-grandfather, Manfred gave a sigh of irritation and exclaimed, "It's beyond me, I hate puzzles."

  "It's not a puzzle," snapped Ezekiel. "Those are the bones of Hamaran, a warhorse of exceptional strength and courage."

  "So what? How are a few measly bones going to bring your ancestor back to life?" Manfred directed a disdainful glance at Ezekiel, who instantly lowered his gaze. He didn't want to be hypnotized by his own great-grandson.

  Keeping his eyes fixed on the bones, the old man brought his wheelchair closer to the table. Ezekiel Bloor was 101 years old, but other men of that age could look considerably better preserved. Ezekiel's face was little more than a skull. His remaining teeth were cracked and blackened, and a few thin strands of white hair hung from beneath a black velvet cap. But his eyes were still full of life; black and glittering, they darted about with a savage intensity

  "We have enough," said the old man, indicating the other objects on the table: a suit of chain mail, a helmet, a black fur cape, and a gold cloak pin. "They're Borlath's. My grandfather found them in the castle, wrapped in leather inside the tomb. The skeleton was gone." He stroked the black fur almost fondly

  Borlath had been Ezekiel's hero ever since he was a boy Stories of his warlike ancestor had fired his imagination until he came to believe that Borlath could solve all his problems. Lately he had dreamed that Borlath would sweep him out of his wheelchair and together they would terrorize the city Then Charlie Bone and his detestable uncle would have to look out.

  "What about electricity for the — you know — moment of life? There isn't any in here." Manfred looked up at the gas jets.

  "Oh, that!" Ezekiel waved his hand dismissively He wheeled himself to another table and picked up a small can with two prongs extending from the top. He turned a handle in the side of the can and a blue spark leaped between the prongs. "Voilà! Electricity!" he gleefully announced. "Now get on with it. The children will be back tomorrow. and we don't want any of them getting in the way of our little experiment."

  "Especially Charlie Bone," Manfred grunted.

  "Charlie Bone!" Ezekiel almost spit the name. "His grandmother said he'd be a help, but he's the reverse. I thought I'd almost got him on my side last semester, but then he had to go whining on about his lost father and blaming me."

  "He wasn't wrong there," Manfred muttered.

  "Think what he could do with that talent of his," Ezekiel went on. "He looks into a picture and, bingo, he's there, talking to people long dead. What I wouldn't give . . ." Ezekiel shook his head. "He's got the blood of that infernal Welsh magician. And the wand."

  "I have plans for that," said Manfred softly "It'll be mine soon — just you wait."

  "Indeed." Ezekiel chuckled. He began to propel himself around the room while his great-grandson concentrated on the delicate job of bone-gluing.

  As Ezekiel moved into the deep shadows at the far end of the room, his thoughts turned to Billy Raven, the white-haired orphan who used to spy on Charlie Bone. Billy had become rebellious of late. He'd refused to tell Ezekiel what Charlie and his friends were up to. As a result, Ezekiel and the Bloors were in danger of losing control of all the endowed children in the school. Something would have to be done.

  "Parents," Ezekiel mumbled to himself "I'll have to get Billy adopted. I promised I'd find the orphan some parents and I never did. He's given up on me. Well, Billy shall have his nice, kind parents."

  "Not too kind," said Manfred, who had overheard.

  "Never fear. I've got just the couple. I don't know why I didn't think of them before." Ezekiel turned his head expectantly Ah, we're about to get help!"

  A distant patter of footsteps could be heard, and a lew seconds later, the door opened and three women walked into the room. The first was the oldest. Her iron-gray hair was piled atop her head in a giant bun; her clothes were black and so were her eyes. Lucretia Yewbeam was the school matron and one of Charlie Bone's great-aunts. "I've brought my sisters," she told Ezekiel. "You said you needed help."

  “And where's the fourth?" asked Ezekiel. "Where's Grizelda?"

  "She's best left out of things for now," said Eustacia, the second sister. After all, she's got to live with our wretched brother — and the boy She might blab, accidentally of course."

  Eustacia, a clairvoyant, walked over to the table. Her gray hair still held threads of black, but in most other respects she resembled her older sister. Her small black eyes darted over the objects on the table and she gave a crooked smile. "So, that's what you're up to, you old devil. Who is he?"

  "My ancestor Borlath," Ezekiel replied. "Greatest of all the Red King's children. Most magnificent, powerful, and wise."

  "Most vile and bloodthirsty would be more accurate," said the third sister, dumping a large leather bag on the table. Her greasy hair hung over her shoulders in sooty swaths, and dark shadows ringed her coal-black eyes. Compared to her sisters, she looked a mess. Her long coat was a size too large, and the grayish blouse beneath looked badly in need of a wash. No one would have guessed that this bedraggled creature had once been a proud and immaculately groomed woman.

  "Venetia's been waiting for something like this," said Eustacia. "Ever since that hateful Charlie Bone burned her house down."

  "I thought your brother did that," Manfred chimed in.

  "So he did," snarled Venetia, "but Charlie was responsible, the little worm. I want him snuffed out. I want him trembling with fear — tortured, tormented, dead."

  "Calm down, Venetia." Ezekiel spun quickly to her side. "We don't want to lose the boy entirely."

  "Why? What use is he? Can you imagine what it's like to lose everything? To see your possessions — the work of a lifetime — go up in smoke?"

  Ezekiel whacked the table with his cane. "Don't be so pathetic, woman. Charlie can be used. I can force him to carry me into the past. I could change history Think of that!"

  "You can't change history Great-grandfather," Manfred said flatly

  "How do you know?" barked Ezekiel. "No one's tried."

  An awkward silence followed. No one dared suggest that it had probably been tried several times, without success. Venetia chewed her lip, still thinking of revenge. She could wait, but one day she would find a way to finish off Charlie Bone — permanently

  "Because I've got the bones," snapped Ezekiel. "This horse, Hamaran" — he nodded at its remains — "was a magnificent creature, by all accounts. And a man mounted on a horse can be very threatening, don't you agree?"

  The others agreed.

  "The boy will be terrified," Ezekiel went on gleefully "He'll do anything we ask."

  Venetia said, “And how are you going to control this freak?"

  Ezekiel had been hoping that no one would ask him this, because he didn't have a satisfactory answer yet. "He's my ancestor," he said with a confident grin. "Why wouldn't he help me? But first things first. Let's get it up and running. Ha-ha!"

  While Lucretia sat on a moth-eaten armchair, her sisters unpacked the leather bag. Vials of liquid began to appear on the table; silver spoons; bags of herbs; small, twinkling pieces of quartz; a black marble pestle and mortar; and five candles. Ezekiel watched the proceedings with hungry eyes.

  An hour later the leg bones of a galloping horse had been arranged on the table. The chain mail glistened with a foul-smelling liquid, and the fur cape had been covered with tiny seeds.

  The five candles cast leaping shadows on the wall. One had been placed above the helmet, one at the end of each of the chain-mail sleeves, and the last two stood
in place of the horse's missing front hooves.

  Venetia had enjoyed the work in spite of herself. It was good to sink her teeth into something destructive again. As she caressed the black fur, tiny flames crackled at the tips of her lingers. “re we ready then?" she asked.

  "Not quite." With a cunning smile, Ezekiel put his hand beneath the rug on his lap and produced a small golden casket. In the center of the jeweled lid, a cluster of rubies, shaped like a heart, shone in the dim room with a dazzling brilliance. "The heart," said Ezekiel, his voice a deep-throated gurgle. "Asa the beast boy found it in the ruin. He was out there digging, as is his wretched habit, and he found a gravestone marked with a ‘B.' He dug farther and found this" — he tapped the casket — "buried deep beneath the stone."

  From her chair in the shadows, Lucretia asked, "Why wasn't it in the tomb?"

  "Why? Why?" Ezekiel gave way to a bout of unpleasant bronchial coughing. "Secrecy maybe. But it's his. I know it. Borlath was the only one of the king's children with the initial 'B’." He opened the casket.

  "Aaaaah!" Eustacia stepped away from the table, for inside the casket lay a small heart-shaped leather pouch that did indeed appear to contain something.

  "See? A heart," said Ezekiel triumphantly "Now, let's get on with it." Scooping the pouch from its casket, he placed it on the suit of armor, just left of center, where he judged a heart might lie. Then he uncoiled a wire from his electric box and wrapped the end once, twice, three times around the pouch.

  An expectant hush descended on the room as the old man began to turn the handle of the silver box. Faster and faster. His crooked hand became a flying blur, his black eyes burned with excitement. A spark leaped between the steel prongs and traveled down the wire to Borlath's heart. Ezekiel emitted a croak of triumph and his hand became still.

  The three sisters were tempted to exclaim with rapture, but they knew that silence was essential at such a moment. The bones of Hamaran were beginning to move.

  Ezekiel and the Yewbeams were watching the table so intently they failed to notice Manfred pull out a handkerchief and press it to his nose. His face turned bright pink as he struggled to suppress a sneeze. It was no use.

 
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