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       The Land of Elyon #4: Stargazer, p.1

           Patrick Carman
 
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The Land of Elyon #4: Stargazer


  THE LAND OF ELYON BOOK 4

  Stargazer

  PATRICK CARMAN

  For my mom and dad

  Who took separate paths and still managed to show me the way home

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Contents

  Dedication

  INTRODUCTION

  PART 1: INTO THE REALM OF LOST CHILDREN

  CHAPTER 1: THE VOICE OF THE ENEMY

  CHAPTER 2: DOWN WITH THE SHIP

  CHAPTER 3: THE HIDDEN DOOR

  CHAPTER 4: JONEZY

  CHAPTER 5: MY STATION REVEALED

  CHAPTER 6: ACROSS THE BRIDGE OF ROPES

  CHAPTER 7: SKIMMING OVER THE VILLAGE

  CHAPTER 8: A FEAST AMONG MOSSY HOUSES

  PART 2: SIR ALISTAIR WAKEFIELD

  CHAPTER 9: THE NIGHT SKIM

  CHAPTER 10: RETURN TO THE HOUSE ON THE HILL

  CHAPTER 11: FLIGHT TO THE FOURTH PILLAR

  CHAPTER 12: A WEAPON OF OUR OWN

  CHAPTER 13: THE TUBE SLIDE

  CHAPTER 14: THE PILLAR OF YESTERDAY

  CHAPTER 15: FALLING PILLARS OF STONE

  CHAPTER 16: OF MOSS AND SALTWATER

  CHAPTER 17: EXPOSING AN HEIR TO THE THRONE

  CHAPTER 18: STARGAZER

  CHAPTER 19: FIRST FLIGHT

  CHAPTER 20: MONSTER SCALE

  CHAPTER 21: DAWN BREAKS ON THE FIVE STONE PILLARS

  CHAPTER 22: THE FIFTH PILLAR

  CHAPTER 23: OUR DEPARTURE

  CHAPTER 24: A GIANT AT THE GATES

  CHAPTER 25: THE NIGHT WEDDING

  Copyright

  THE LAND OF ELYON

  THE FIVE STONE PILLARS

  INTRODUCTION

  Stargazer is the fifth Land of Elyon book. If you’re new to the series or feel you might have forgotten some of what has taken place so far, the following brief descriptions of each book might prove useful. Enjoy!

  The Land of Elyon story begins with The Dark Hills Divide, in which a curious young girl named Alexa Daley refuses to stay trapped behind the walls that surround her small town. Through persistence (and sneakiness), Alexa discovers a hidden passageway into the wild world outside, where animals have their own ideas about the walls that dominate the landscape. With a little help from Murphy—an energetic squirrel of the woods—and a surprisingly tiny forest dweller named Yipes, Alexa begins to unravel the mysteries that lay hidden all around her.

  In Beyond the Valley of Thorns, the second Elyon book, Alexa’s journey becomes more perilous. She leaves the safety of her home and travels across the Land of Elyon. Along the way she befriends the giant Armon, fights the evil forces of Victor Grindall, and goes to battle against an army of ogres. Some of the biggest secrets in the Land of Elyon are revealed in Beyond the Valley of Thorns, but the biggest secret of them all is still hidden from Alexa’s view.

  The Tenth City, the final book in the core Elyon trilogy, brings all the forces of good and evil against one another. Alexa discovers her true identity as she fights alongside Murphy, Yipes, and Armon. Evil has left the shores of Alexa’s home when The Tenth City comes to an end, but it searches for a new place to corrupt.

  The prequel to the Elyon trilogy, Into the Mist, has been called both a prequel and a continuation of the story. Both are true. Into the Mist is told from the deck of the Warwick Beacon after Yipes and Alexa have left the Land of Elyon in search of new adventures. The Warwick Beacon is captained by Roland Warvold, brother of Thomas Warvold, the architect of the walls that appear in The Dark Hills Divide. Roland tells Alexa and Yipes the story of his own childhood with his brother Thomas, and we see them at their most magical—escaping from a vile orphanage, overcoming the Wakefield House, and meeting Armon for the first time. When Into the Mist comes to an end, Roland has finished his story and the Warwick Beacon has arrived at the Five Stone Pillars.

  The Five Stone Pillars are a hidden realm Alexa and Yipes know nothing about. The evil Abaddon, in the form of a sea monster, has followed them and wants to rule the Five Stone Pillars. He will stop at nothing to gain control of the place and its people.

  As we begin Stargazer together, Alexa’s journey has taken her far from home, across the Lonely Sea, to a place where she will at last discover her true purpose….

  PART 1

  INTO THE REALM OF LOST CHILDREN

  CHAPTER 1

  THE VOICE OF THE ENEMY

  A long voyage includes days without wind or waves. The boat sits still on deep water, waiting for a push. The morning sun shines through the surface of the Lonely Sea into unknown depths of blue water, and I often leaned over the side of the Warwick Beacon in search of the murky outline of a fish. A shadow the size and shape of my forearm would drift past my line of sight and disappear under the boat. Then I would race to the other side and look down, waiting until the shadow re-emerged and slowly disappeared out into the sea. On a calm day, it was not uncommon for me to spend an hour or more at this entirely useless undertaking.

  But this morning, as I leaned out over the edge of the rail, my heart caught in my throat at the thought of what I might see.

  To begin with, we’d found the Five Stone Pillars, a mysterious place hidden far away from The Land of Elyon. We could see the pillars clearly, less than a nautical mile away, rising out of the sea. From all I’d been told, I knew this was an especially secret place, where Sir Alistair Wakefield hid the lost children so that no danger could find them.

  But danger had found the lost children. And what’s worse, we were the ones who’d brought the danger to them. Something had been following our ship since the very beginning of our long journey away from The Land of Elyon. It was something unseen and sinister, watching our every move from the depths of the sea.

  I’d been standing at the rail for a while, looking into the calmest water I’d ever seen, wishing that the wind would kick up and send us on our way. There was a terrible chill in the air as I scanned the glassy surface, hoping not to spot anything larger than my own boot.

  “Captain?” asked Yipes, my tiny, ever-present companion. “Why is everything so still?” I chanced a fleeting look away from the smooth surface of the water and saw that he was standing very near our captain, Roland Warvold, questioning him.

  Yipes tapped Roland in the leg with his finger. “Pardon me, sir.”

  The captain didn’t respond. We had come within sight of our long-awaited destination, but it felt as if we were anchored in place, and Roland was busy reviewing his charts and maps at the wheel of the boat. Yipes is the sort of person who has a hard time being ignored, so he kept at it, tap tap tapping at the knee in front of his face until finally Roland could stand it no more.

  “Can’t you find something useful to do?” Roland replied. He knelt down so that he was at eye level with Yipes, and the two began to talk as I returned to watching the Lonely Sea.

  The water was so smooth and still I couldn’t stand looking at it any longer without dropping something in and breaking the glass surface. I swung around, searching the deck for something to throw, and my eyes lit on the remains of a breakfast that had yet to be cleaned up. It was only a few steps away, and when I arrived there I found several things to choose from that would suit my purpose. I picked up a string of fish bones by its crispy tail and walked back toward the rail of the boat.

  “You see there,” said Roland. “At least Alexa is trying to make herself useful.”

  Yipes protested, citing the fact that he’d made the breakfast and didn’t think it was fair that he should have to clean up. I tossed the fish bones into the water and watched as the ripples circled out and bumped lazily into the side of the boat. The bones were light enough to float, which was unf
ortunate, because they were an ugly addition to what had been a rather enjoyable (if boring) view of things. I began to think about how I might fish the leftover breakfast out of the water, and as I did, there came a thin shadow up from the depths of the sea. It looked as if it was about the size of the very fish I’d thrown overboard, and I was curious about what sort of small sea creature it was.

  The shadow grew darker as it neared the surface. Suddenly alert, I looked more carefully and saw that this was no ordinary shadow—it was long and it grew wider from the tip down. The water behind the fish bones began to move ever so slightly. Big, rolling movement that was almost imperceptible, as if something huge was moving many feet below.

  I heard a soft, crackling sound and watched as the shadow emerged from the water. It had the look of weather-beaten metal, like a sword or a shield after being in salty water for a hundred years. Clustered along its length were barnacles and jagged crustaceans. It looked like an ancient, metal snake for a split second when it rose from the water, but that rapidly changed. It unfurled itself and spread out thin and low over the bones on the water. Unrolled, this thing was as wide as the wheel of the ship, full of a strange energy. Ghostly sparks sizzled against the wide, flat inside. It stopped a moment and seemed to look at me, then slowly enveloped all the space around the bones, the water boiling as it came near. As I gasped, it curled back into the rolled-up shape it had been, the bones in its clutches, and became a shadow under the water. The water rippled, the shadow disappeared, and all was still once more.

  It seemed to me that the whole incident occurred outside of time. It had seemed slow and yet the whole event was over before I could think to cry out to Roland and Yipes about what was happening.

  I waited another moment at the rail, waiting to see if the shadow would return, but it did not.

  “Roland!” I yelled across the boat. He and Yipes approached and I pointed to where the bones had been.

  “Something came out of the water,” I said. “It seemed small at first, like a tentacle. But then it unwound like a blanket. I think whatever it was is attached to something bigger.”

  “How much bigger?” asked Yipes. His eyes were round and white with concern. When I didn’t answer, he darted to the breakfast table and returned with another row of fish bones.

  “Maybe that’s not such a good idea,” said Roland. Yipes had his arm back with the fish bones by the tail, about to hurl them into the water. “Whatever’s out there, we don’t want it thinking it can find a lot of food near the boat.”

  This seemed to strike Yipes as a very good thought, and he dropped the bones on the deck, then wiped his hand on Roland’s leg.

  Roland looked down at me and placed a hand on my shoulder.

  “Are you sure of what you saw?” he asked. “We’ve been out here for almost thirty days. The sea can play tricks on you after a while.”

  “I’m sure,” I said, a little wounded that Roland wasn’t certain he could believe me. “It looked like it was made of old armor or metal on the outside, but on the inside— when it unrolled—it was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It sparked with blue and yellow lines, like it was bursting with energy.”

  “Electricity,” mumbled Roland.

  “What was that you said?” asked Yipes. Neither he nor I had ever heard the word used before.

  “It’s nothing,” answered Roland, but I could tell that it was important. “Just something Sir Alistair Wakefield was experimenting with. I only knew of it in passing.”

  I began to question him, but the captain would have none of it.

  “We have to be ready for what might come next,” he said.

  Yipes was alarmed by this comment and jumped onto the rail, where he could almost look Roland in the eye.

  “What might come next?” Yipes asked, fidgeting nervously with one long side of his mustache.

  “Who can say?”

  Yipes was beside himself, which was common in situations like this. “Just a moment ago, you said something might come next. What did you mean?”

  “Alexa, you and Yipes go below and bring the harpoons,” said Roland. “The ones with the shortest ropes.”

  Yipes wasn’t getting the answer he was looking for, and he began grasping at straws.

  “There must be some way you could make the wind blow, maybe a spell or a potion you’ve found in your travels,” he said. Roland and I looked at him like he’d gone crazy.

  “We can’t just sit here and wait for what might come next, whatever that is!”

  Roland drew his line of sight toward the Five Stone Pillars and saw that they were still a ways off.

  “The wind will blow when it wants to, not a moment sooner,” he said. “We’ll need to be on our guard until then.”

  And so it was that we each took up a different position on the Warwick Beacon and watched the still water all around us, waiting for something awful to rise from the sea. Yipes and I both carried small knives we used for preparing food or cutting a rope, and Roland had what Yipes and I liked to call the real sword, but other than that, the harpoons were the only seaworthy weapons we had. The harpoons were long but not very heavy, with sharp points and a length of rope attached to their ends. The sharp points were followed down the shaft by metal barbs meant to dig in and hold tight. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hold on to whatever was in the water if it showed itself again.

  Morning made its maddeningly slow march to afternoon, afternoon lurched into early evening, and then came dusk. All the while we waited in silence for a wind that was busy somewhere else in the world and a monster that would not show its face. Over and over again, I whispered to myself, Please send the wind, Elyon. Please, send the wind.

  When dusk turned to night, Yipes went below and made a hasty dinner of piping hot tea and biscuits he’d cooked up the day before. We huddled together at the wheel of the boat with steaming cups and tried to make the best of things.

  “There’s really nothing quite so nice as a spot of tea and a biscuit, don’t you think?” Yipes asked. He took a big bite of his dinner and chased it with a sip from the cup. For a man of such tiny proportions, Yipes had quite an appetite. He tipped his floppy hat, smiling as he chewed. His mustache, long in need of a trim, wobbled as he chewed. And those bright eyes of his crinkled at the corners and burst with energy.

  “We’ll be getting tired soon,” said Roland. “I’ll take the first watch while you two get some sleep. I expect we’ll be moving again by morning.”

  “How do you know when the wind will return?” I asked.

  Roland sipped his tea and fiddled with the wheel of the boat. The color had long been washed out of his clothing, and his white shirt stood in stark contrast to his darkly tanned face. A daily onslaught of wind and sun had done things to his hair and beard and face that made them magical to look at.

  “After ten thousand nights at sea,” he said, “a sailor knows a thing or two about the ways of the wind.”

  We whispered a while longer and then Roland got up and walked to the front of the Warwick Beacon. When I looked at Yipes, he was already lying back, counting the display of stars in the night sky. I had known him long enough to feel certain that he would only lie awake for a short time before sleep would take him.

  “I wonder what’s at the top of the five pillars,” he mumbled, but his eyes were already turning heavy and dull.

  “Candies and treats,” I said. “And tea. Lots of tea.”

  Yipes breathed in deep and let out a nice long mmm-mmm. Then I was sure he was asleep and dreaming. It would prove harder for me to find rest, but after a while I, too, was asleep on the deck. I know this only because of my eventual awakening to an unexpected feeling of warmth. When I opened my eyes, I saw that there was indeed a blanket very near my face, hovering a few feet in the air and surrounding my entire body. The crackling sound of—what was it called?—electricity sparked in the air above me. Though it had no eyes that I could see, the shape of the energy itself moved with yellows and blues over th
e surface and created the appearance of a murky face. It felt as if it might be looking at me from somewhere in the unseen depths of the water below. And then I heard a familiar voice meant only for me.

  You didn’t think I would be defeated so easily did you, Alexa Daley?

  It was the dreadful sound of the darkest force in the world.

  Abaddon.

  I tried to move to one side, but the darkness glided over with me. And what was worse, it moved lower still, the shadowy face closer and growing hotter.

  It pleases me to see you there, afraid of what comes next, wishing you could escape me.

  “But you were destroyed,” I said, a shaking whisper all I could manage. “Elyon did away with you.”

  Oh, no, not destroyed, only different.

  The words were followed by a hissing laughter. The water began to move under the Warwick Beacon.

  It’s not as enjoyable to be trapped underwater as you might think. I prefer dry land. How convenient that you’ve led me to it!

  “Yipes!” I cried. “Get up! Get up!”

  Yipes was an unusually deep sleeper and it took something loud and close in order to wake him. The danger in waking Yipes with a start at times of peril is that he springs into action before he’s fully awake.

  “What is it? What?” Yipes was up in a flash, bouncing back and forth on the deck, wielding his little wooden handled bread knife as though it were a spear. Roland had also come running from the front of the ship, where he’d been looking out at the still water. I realized something then that I hadn’t before: Only I could hear the voice of Abaddon. Until I’d yelled out for Yipes, it had been quiet on the boat.

  Roland had his sword unsheathed and was soon standing by my side.

  “Stay still, Alexa!” he yelled. The sizzling blanket of Abaddon curled back into a cylinder and began sliding on its long arm across the rail. Roland was holding his sword low near the deck. As I rolled out of the way, he sliced upward, ripping into scales of metal and stone clusters collected from the deep. Roland fell back, stunned by some force he hadn’t expected, and there came a shrieking sound from somewhere far below us. He had not severed the piece, but it was clear that he had angered whatever was at the other end. The curled snake rose high in the air over the Warwick Beacon, its encrusted metal scales clanking as it went. It seemed to gather energy from the inside, the metal scales turning orange before our eyes. And then, with a sudden burst, the whole length was on fire, slapping the surface of the Warwick Beacon like a flaming whip. Everywhere it pounded, it left burning patches along the top of the deck.

 
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