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       Children of the Red King Book 06 Charlie Bone and The Beast, p.1

           Jenny Nimmo
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Children of the Red King Book 06 Charlie Bone and The Beast


  Charlie Bone and the Beast

  (The Children of the Red King, Book 6)

  Jenny Nimmo

  viii THE CHILDREN OF THE RED KING, CALLED THE ENDOWED

  THE ENDOWED ARE ALL DESCENDED FROM THE TEN CHILDREN OF THE RED KING.

  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.

  naren bloor Adopted daughter of Bartholomew

  Bloor. Naren can send shadow words over great distances. She is descended from the Red King's grandson who was abducted by pirates and taken to China.

  charlie bone Charlie can travel into photographs and

  pictures. Through his father, he is descended from the Red King and through his mother, from Mathonwy, a Welsh magician and friend of the Red King.

  idith and Telekinetic twins, distantly related to Zelda

  INEZ BRANKO

  Dobinski, who has left Bloor's Academy.

  ix dagbert endlessDagbert is the son of Lord Grimwald,

  who can control the oceans. His mother

  4took the gold from drowned men's

  teeth and made them into charms to

  protect her son. Dagbert is a drowner.

  dorcas loomAn endowed girl whose gift is the ability

  to bewitch clothes.

  una onimousMr. Onimous's niece. Una is five years

  old and her endowment is being kept secret until it has fully developed.

  asa pikeA 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 ravenBilly 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 sageDescended from an African wise man,

  Lysander can call up his spirit ancestors.

  Gabriel silkGabriel can feel scenes and emotions

  x through the clothes of others. He comes from a line of psychics.

  joshua tilpinJoshua has magnetism. He is descended

  from Lilith, the Red King's oldest daughter, and Harken, the evil enchanter who married her.

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

  Olivia vertigoDescended from Guanhamara, who fled the Red King's castle and married an Italian prince. Olivia is an illusionist. The Bloors are unaware of her endowment.

  xi PROLOGUE

  Charlie Bone lives in a city that holds many secrets. They are hidden in the walls and buried under centuries of dust.

  The city began nine hundred years ago with a castle. It was built by Charlie's ancestor, the Red King, so-called because of his red cloak and the burning sun emblazoned on his shield. The Red King was African; he was also a magician.

  When the king's beloved queen, Berenice, died, he went to grieve in the forest. He believed that his ten children were safe in the hands of wise councillors and kind nurses. Besides, each child had been endowed with an extraordinary power.

  At that time, the country was a violent and lawless place; murder and robbery were rife. On his way home, the king found that his considerable powers were needed to help the poor and oppressed.

  xii He donned a suit of chain mail and a helmet with a plume of red feathers. Then, conjuring up an invincible sword, he rode out to defend the troubled and helpless people.

  For five years the Red King fought tyrants, murderers, and plundering nobles. When he finally returned to his castle, he found that five of his children were gone and the other five were using their endowments to wreak havoc on the surrounding countryside. It was these children and their heirs who began the city's history of dreadful magic and wickedness. Unable to fight his own children, the brokenhearted king left his castle forever.

  Charlie's grandmother and her three sisters all have a part in the evil. While Lyell Bone was spellbound they sent Charlie to Bloor's Academy a school run by a family with an especially violent past. Charlie is often afraid of the Bloors and their allies, but, so far, he has resisted all their attempts to crush him, for he has friends among the descendants of the Red King, friends who use their unusual endowments to help him.

  xiii With his own talent for traveling into the past through pictures, Charlie is beginning to learn the city's secrets. It is a dangerous pursuit, but Charlie has his friends to support him and a firm trust in the enduring power of the Red King.

  xiv

  1

  NOT-QUITE-HUMANS

  You might think it was rather careless of Charlie Bone to lose his father a second time, especially when he had only just found him. They had been apart for ten long years, spellbound years for Lyell Bone, a time spent in deep forgetfulness, when he could remember nothing of his past or even recall his name.

  This time, at least Charlie knew where his father had gone. He was taking Charlie's mother on a second honeymoon. What could be better than to get away from cold, dark February days, to watch whales and dolphins roll through a sunlit sea? They had asked Charlie to join them, of course, but he had politely declined. His parents needed to be alone and, besides, there were things that he had to attend to at home. A few mysteries to clear up.

  At that moment Charlie was standing by the gate of the house where he was born. It was an old, redbrick building, with a steep slate roof and four steps

  2

  up to a blue front door. Charlie and his mother had left the house when he was two, and he couldn't remember it at all. Even the name was unfamiliar to him: Diamond Corner - it stood on the corner of Diamond Street and Lyme Avenue.

  Charlie was twelve now, a boy of medium height with dark, unruly hair and walnut brown eyes. A boy who was ordinary in every way except one: He was a picture-traveler, a talent he had inherited from the legendary Red King.

  Beside Charlie stood a very tall man with strong, finely chiseled features and straight black hair that almost touched his shoulders. He wore a long, dark coat and the brim of his black hat had been pulled down, as if to shade his eyes, though there was not the slightest glimmer of sunlight on this murky Sunday afternoon.

  "Needs a lot of repair," the man remarked, looking at the dark holes where slates had fallen from the roof.

  3

  "I wish I could move in right now, Uncle Paton,"

  said Charlie.

  i

  "You won't have to wait long," said his uncle. "They're starting work next week, builders, painters, plumbers, and roofers."

  "Let's have a look." Charlie opened the gate and walked up the overgrown path. His uncle followed, jangling a bunch of keys. As they drew closer they noticed a light in one of the lower windows.

  "Someone's in there." Charlie ran up to the door. His uncle, only a pace behind, leaped up the steps and fitted one of his keys into the lock. The blue door swung open and Charlie stepped inside.

  A stale
, mildewy smell filled the hallway. The floorboards were damp and dusty, and strips of ragged wallpaper hung from the dark-stained walls. Charlie trod as lightly as he could, but the bare boards creaked with every step he took. He quickly opened a door to his left and looked into the room where he had seen the light. It was empty. Uncle Paton nodded at a

  4

  half-open door on the other side of the room. "The kitchen," he whispered.

  A shuffling sound could be heard. It was difficult to make out where it came from. Charlie sprang across the room, his uncle's heavy footsteps pounding after him. But the kitchen too was empty. A sharp bang sent Charlie bounding through the kitchen and into the hallway. The back door swung open, hitting the wall behind it with another loud bang. A blast of cold air hit Charlie as he squinted outside. He was just in time to see two figures slip through a broken fence at the end of the yard.

  "Hey!" cried Charlie, running through a sea of long, dried grass and weeds. When he reached the fence he peered into the narrow gap. But the intruders had vanished.

  "Could have been tramps." Uncle Paton kicked at a pile of newspapers in a corner. "Let's go, Charlie."

  "Can't I go upstairs?" begged Charlie. "I want to see if I can remember the room where I slept."

  "Go on, then." Uncle Paton followed Charlie up

  5

  the stairs. When he reached the top, Charlie stood and stared at the two doors in front of him. There were two more leading off a hall to his left, and another on his right. He chose this last one.

  "You did remember, Charlie!"

  "I just guessed," said Charlie. He pushed open the door. "OH!"

  It was impossible to move any farther into the room. Every floorboard had been lifted. Some stood against the walls, others lay scattered on the narrow planks that supported the floor.

  "How very odd!" Uncle Paton peered over Charlie's

  shoulder. "I didn't know the builders had started

  already"

  They looked in the other rooms, Every one was

  in the same state; floorboards were wrenched up and

  thrown carelessly into corners or strewn across the

  thin planks.

  "Looks like someone's been searching for something," Charlie remarked.

  "A pretty desperate search," his uncle agreed. "I

  6

  imagine they did the same downstairs, but relaid the boards in case anyone looked through the windows."

  "I don't like to think of strangers coming in and trashing my old home," said Charlie.

  As they went downstairs they kept an eye open for any sign that the boards might have been pulled up. And this time they noticed the splintered wood, the nails that had been unscrewed, and the slight wobble in the banisters.

  "It might be a good idea to change the locks," said Uncle Paton, when they were standing in the street again. "I'll tell the agents."

  They began the walk home to number nine Filbert Street. Uncle Paton was thinking about the intruders and failed to notice that the streetlights had come on. Before Charlie had time to warn him, his uncle carelessly glanced upward and the light over his head gave a loud pop and exploded.

  Uncle Paton ducked as a shower of glass rained down on his head. "Bother! Bother! Bother!" he cried.

  Paton Yewbeam, another of the Red King's

  7

  descendants, had inherited an unfortunate endowment. If he so much as glanced at a light that was on, whether it was in a window, a building, on the street, or at home, the element would reach such intense heat that the bulb inevitably exploded. So Paton rarely left home in the daytime. Traffic lights, brake lights, and shop windows were all at risk from his unhappy talent. And he found it very embarrassing.

  This time Uncle Paton's accident had revealed something. In the bright flash that momentarily filled the street, two figures could be seen cowering beside a hedge. The moment lasted less than a second but their faces were printed sharply in Charlie's mind. They looked... not quite human.

  Charlie had blinked against the shower of glass that fell onto his uncle. When he opened his eyes again, the figures had vanished.

  "Come on, Charlie, let's get out of here before someone sees us." Uncle Paton took Charlie's arm and pulled him away from the scene of his crime.

  "Someone did see us, Uncle P.," said Charlie. "I

  8

  think it might have been THEM. You know, the intruders. But they weren't exactly people. If you know what I mean."

  "I do not." Uncle Paton gripped Charlie even tighter. "Quick, quick! Over here."

  Charlie found himself being dragged across the street. A fast approaching car gave a warning hoot, and Uncle Paton hauled him onto the sidewalk.

  "What did you say about not-exactly people?" Uncle Paton tugged the brim of his hat. Now even his nose was hidden.

  "They were weird, Uncle P.," Charlie panted. "I can't explain."

  "Try," commanded his uncle. "I want to know what kind of creatures we're up against."

  Uncle Paton set off again at his usual breakneck speed. Charlie had to make little skipping movements in order to keep up with him. "It's not fair," Charlie complained. "Your legs are twice as long as mine."

  "I want to put distance between myself and the streetlight," Uncle Paton snapped. He turned a corner

  9

  and slowed his pace. "Now, try again. What made these things inhuman, Charlie?"

  "They were a bit hairy for one thing," said Charlie. "And their eyes - their eyes, well, I think they were too far apart for a human, they were more like dogs - or, or -"

  "Wolves?" his uncle suggested.

  "Maybe," Charlie said cautiously. "If wolves have yellow eyes."

  "Hmmm. Why do I think that the Bloors have something to do with this? Tell me, did your father mention anything that he might have left at the old house?"

  "Nothing," said Charlie. "But then there were so many things that he'd forgotten." He smiled to himself. It was enough that his father had remembered his mother and himself. "His memory is coming back, though. Every day something new pops into his head. Maybe when he comes home again he'll be completely recovered."

  "And that's what they're afraid of." Uncle Paton came to a standstill.

  10

  "Who? What?" asked Charlie.

  "Listen, Charlie. We believe that Manfred Bloor hypnotized your father because he caused old Ezekiel's accident. But I have come to believe that there was more to it. I believe your father was hiding something that the Bloors wanted. Perhaps they hoped that under hypnosis he would reveal its hiding place. But this never happened. And now they're afraid that he will remember and find whatever it is before they do."

  Charlie couldn't imagine what had led his uncle to his conclusion. But Paton Yewbeam had an inquiring mind. He was writing a history of the Red King, and his room was crammed with huge books that covered every subject Charlie had heard of, and a lot more that he hadn't.

  Diamond Street lay on the outskirts of the city, and it took Charlie and his uncle nearly an hour to get home. By that time dusk had fallen and a thick mist was creeping through the streets. Curiously it

  11

  smelled of salt, though the sea was at least thirty miles away.

  Charlie's grandmother Maisie met them at the door. She had the look of someone who's had a nasty shock. "Grandma Bone's back," she whispered, turning out the hall light in case of a Paton accident.

  "Back?" said Paton loudly. "Why on earth ..."

  "Shhh!" Maisie put a finger to her lips. "Come in here."

  Charlie and his uncle followed Maisie into the kitchen. The table had been set, and while Maisie ladled
mushroom soup into three bowls, she told them about Grandma Bone's dramatic arrival.

  Grandma Bone was Paton's sister. She was twenty years older than he, and they'd never gotten along. She didn't even get along with her only son, Charlie's father. As soon as he'd come home after ten long years imprisoned in Bloor's Academy, Grandma Bone had moved out. She'd gone to live with her three sisters at the end of a grim and gloomy alley called Darkly Wynd.

  12

  Charlie had hoped he would never see her again.

  "She's still got a key," Maisie told them. "She marched in, dumped her bag in the hall, and said, I'm back! Why? I asked. Well, that was wrong for a start. Anyone would think you were sorry, she said. I am, I said. I thought you'd gone for good. "

  Charlie began to giggle. Paton asked, "But what is her reason, Maisie? Why has she returned?"

  "A wedding!" said Maisie.

  "Whose?" begged Paton.

  "Your youngest sister, Venetia. She's getting married next week."

  Charlie choked on his soup. "Great-aunt Venetia? Who on earth would want to marry her?"

  "Who indeed, Charlie love," said Maisie. "But some poor man is soon going to rue the day."

  "How extraordinary." Paton stared at Maisie in disbelief.

  "Grandma Bone is very put out," Maisie went on, "but her sisters are all for it apparently."

  13

  "Phew." Paton blew on his soup, which couldn't have been that hot because he'd already swallowed several spoonfuls without a murmur. He was trying not to show it, but anyone could see that he was utterly baffled and extremely shocked.

  Uncle Paton's four sisters were each as bad as the other. They loathed their only brother and spent their lives tormenting him just because he didn't agree with their morals and made very sure they knew it. All four of them were mean, spiteful, arrogant, dishonest, and greedy. In fact, Charlie couldn't find enough words to describe how horrible they were. None of them had ever given Charlie a kind word, let alone a birthday present, not even Grandma Bone.

  Maisie had saved the best part of her announcement till last. "The worst of it is, he's got children," she said dramatically. "What do you think of that?"

  "Children!" Charlie shuddered. "Poor things. Imagine Great-aunt Venetia being your mother?"

 
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