My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish
By Mo O'Hara, Marek Jagucki
Feiwel and Friends Copyright © 2015 Mo O'Hara
All rights reserved.
OUR TALE BEGINNETH
Trumpets blared on either side of the school bus as it bumped along the lane up to Castlerock Castle. And I don't mean ordinary trumpets. I mean those extra-long pointy ones with flags hanging off them, like you see in wizard-and-dungeon video games.
"Wow, they really went all out for this medieval day!" I said, turning to my best friend, Pradeep, who was hunched over on the seat behind me.
"Blecchh!" he groaned as he filled another barf bag. "Nice trumpets."
Pradeep and I usually sit together because his travel sickness doesn't bug me, but today he wouldn't sit next to me. You see ... each class had to dress up as something different for this medieval reconstruction thing, and our class had to dress as peasants.
Top Five Reasons Why Dressing as a Peasant Is the Best Costume Ever:
1) You're SUPPOSED to be messy and covered in dirt. Brilliant!
2) If your peasant outfit is too clean, you have to jump in puddles to make it muddy.
3) You get to wear tights (which are surprisingly comfortable for climbing trees).
4) Mom couldn't say: "There's no way you can go to school looking like that!" because I COULD.
5) You can make mud out of perfectly dry dirt, just to jump in it!
Frankie, my big, fat zombie goldfish, had enjoyed the whole splashing-in-muddy-puddles thing too. I unscrewed the top of the flagon hanging over my shoulder so he could see out.
"That's Castlerock Castle," I said. "Looks cool, huh?"
Frankie shrugged like he wasn't impressed, but then he caught sight of the moat. He squeezed out of the top of the flagon and slapped himself against the window before plopping back with a muddy splash.
"Frankie, I'm not supposed to get my peasant costume dirty!" Pradeep groaned from behind us. His mom hadn't understood the whole "peasant" look and sent him to school in a spotless cream tunic, matching felt cap with a white feather and cream tights. He looked a bit like a medieval glass of milk, actually. This is why he wouldn't sit next to me.
"Hang on," I said. "Aren't you going to tell me off for bringing Frankie on a school trip? Or at least remind me that every time I do bring him we end up getting into trouble?"
"No," mumbled Pradeep as he filled another barf bag. He really must have been feeling ill.
Just then the bus pulled up next to the castle. A man with jingly bells on a very silly-looking hat tapped on the bus driver's window with a stick with matching jingly bells on it. "Good morrow, good sir, and bountiful blessings on this glorious day. My name is Archibald of Ditherington." He jingled as he bowed. "But you may refer to me as Motley Fool."
"Isn't that a rock band?" the driver asked.
"Forsooth, you jest!" Motley Fool said with a jingly shake of his stick. "Do you bringeth the peasants of the town?"
"Huh?" said the bus driver.
The fool cleared his throat. "It matters not. Beckon the young folk to make haste to the castle, then parketh your cart yonder." He jingled his stick more curtly in the direction of the parking lot.
"You what?" the bus driver asked.
Motley took a deep breath. "Get the kids off the bus, then park over there."
"Oh, right!" The bus driver nodded and then shouted back to us, "Off here! And don't leave anything on the bus!"
He looked directly at Pradeep as he said the last part.
HAVE A PEASANT DAY
Pradeep and I picked up his barf bags and got off the bus. We found a trash can and then lined up to be counted by the teachers. Ever since a kid got left behind on a potato chip factory tour, they've been extra careful. He got through five mega-bags before anyone found him. I think the school had to pay for them.
Our teacher, Mrs. Richards, addressed the class. "I for one am excited about the educational and historically pertinent day that we are about to have." She was smiling more than I have ever seen a history teacher smile. I guess that's because they mostly teach us about wars and plagues and stuff. "Now make sure you pay attention to our guide for the day."
"Hear ye, hear ye, all you who come to visit Castlerock Castle," Motley Fool cried. "Hark and I will tell ye what adventures we have in store." He waved his jingly stick as he spoke. "We will witness the three challenges of the Tournament of Castlerock. First, archery, where the knights' accuracy will be tested. Then the boulder lift, in order to judgeth their strength. And finally the joust — to test each knight's ultimate bravery."
"I can't wait to see the archery!" Pradeep whispered.
"Me too," I said. "Plus it'll be great to have a day out for once that has absolutely nothing 'evil' about it."
The words had not even completely left my mouth when we heard the laugh. "Mwhaaa-haa-haaa-haa-haa!"
Then we saw him. My Evil Scientist big brother, Mark, was dressed in a thick velvet embroidered coat and big baggy velvet shorts. He had dark tights and pointy shoes and was striding toward our class with other kids from his school. They were all wearing fancy clothes and floppy hats.
Motley Fool bowed to them as they approached the drawbridge. "Good morrow, Lords and Ladies of the castle. The peasants have arrived to work in the castle yard."
Mark smiled his creepiest smile. "Cool ... um ... I mean, cooleth."
My flagon started to rattle from side to side as Frankie tried to escape. Frankie and Mark have been mortal enemies ever since Mark dunked him in toxic gunk and tried to flush him.
"Shhh, Frankie!" I whispered.
"Today, we are role-playing daily life in the medieval world," Mrs. Richards called to our class. "So, the wishes of the Lords and Ladies, within reason" — she stared at Mark as she said it — "are your commands. Peasants, let's head into the castle."
"Ugh!" Mark stopped just before he stepped onto the drawbridge. "I can't walk through this muddy puddle. PEASANTS!" he shouted.
Motley Fool motioned for Pradeep and me to go and help him.
Throwing my flagon over my shoulder to keep Frankie as far away from Mark as possible, we linked arms to make a seat and lift Mark across the puddle. Just as we were putting him down, Mark's foot kicked back and splashed mud across us both.
"Yuck!" Pradeep groaned, wiping mud from his face and tunic.
"Sorry about that." Mark smiled. "My foot must have slipped. Mwhaahaa-haa-haa-haa!" He strode on ahead with the rest of the Lords and Ladies, and our class of peasants followed.
Frankie was thrashing hard in his flagon now and pushing at the opening. I popped open the cork to let him see that Mark was gone.
"At least Mark didn't realize that Frankie's here," I said to Pradeep. "And there's no sign of Fang, Mark's evil vampire kitten. We can still have a fun day. We just need to make sure that we avoid Mark."
"Right! I mean, it could be worse!" Pradeep joked. "My Evil Computer Genius big brother, Sanj, could be here too."
That's when we heard an evil wheeze.
EVIL LOOKETH AS EVIL DOETH
"You have got to be kidding me!" I said.
Dressed in a full medieval wizard's outfit, Sanj, Pradeep's Evil Computer Genius big brother, strode toward us from the castle.
"Nice hat," Pradeep said as I popped the cork back into Frankie's flagon so he couldn't fling himself out at Sanj.
"I thought the outfit was appropriate because I am a computing wizard." Sanj smiled his creepy smile. "My gifted-and-talented school was asked to participate, and we were all given special costumes that befitted our talents." He looked at our grimy peasant outfits. "As were you." He wheezed his evil laugh and leaned closer.
Suddenly the cork, and Frankie, popped out of the top of the flagon and shot straight at Sanj, thwacking him square on the nose.
"Argh!" Sanj shouted as he flailed his wand blindly.
"Frankie, stop!" I yelled, pulling the zombie goldfish off Sanj's nose and shoving him back into the flagon.
"Nnnnny nnnose!" Sanj said in a way that sounded like he had a dozen cotton balls shoved up there. "Naaal nnnnet nnnoou for nnisss ... fnnnish!"
"I'm sorry?" I asked.
"I think he said, 'I'll get you for this ... dish!'" Pradeep said.
"Ugh!" Sanj shouted. "Fnnish! Fnnishh!"
"Oh, fish," Pradeep and I said at the same time.
"Ni nnate nnat fnnnish!" Sanj mumbled, and stormed back toward the castle.
"Oh no," I said. "He'll tell Mark about Frankie, and that's going to mean trouble."
"Not if we stay out of their way," reasoned Pradeep.
Just then the trumpets sounded again.
"That's the signal for the start of the archery, Tom!" Pradeep cried. "Let's get in there before we miss it!"
We ran over the drawbridge, but the courtyard was so crowded that we couldn't see the knights. Pradeep pointed at one of the low castle walls. It was thick and sturdy and had special cutout sections where I think they used to put archers or cannons during battles. They were like ready-made seats for the contest.
"Good idea," I said. "We'll see perfectly from up there."
I hung Frankie's flagon around my neck and we climbed some wooden ladders that were leaning against the wall.
* * *
As we looked down into the courtyard we could see a mass of peasants. The Lords and Ladies of Mark's school and the gifted-and-talented wizards, soothsayers, Kings and Queens from Sanj's school were all seated on a platform around the fenced-off tournament area. Then we saw the knights. Their suits of armor glimmered in the sun as they stood in a row. Quivers of arrows hung by their sides and long heavy bows were in their hands. I uncorked Frankie's flagon so he could see too.
Motley Fool stepped out in front of the crowd. He pointed to the targets that were lined up against the castle wall. "Good morrow and welcome, Ladies, Lords and castle folk. Herewith begins the first of our three events! Whosoever striketh the target most exactly shall taketh the victory."
One of the peasants shouted, "What?"
Motley Fool added, "The best shot winneth the contest!"
Everyone cheered again. I spotted Mark in the stands. He and Sanj were whispering together and looking over at the knights.
"Let us introduceth our noble knights!" Motley Fool shouted, and jingled his stick. A knight in silver armor with a picture of a red rose wrapped around a sword on his chest stepped forward.
"The Knight of the Rose!" cried Motley. The knight bowed and everyone clapped.
Frankie peeked out of his flagon but didn't seem impressed.
Next, a knight wearing a golden suit of armor and a helmet like a pointy crown stepped forward. "The Knight of the Crown!" jingled Motley Fool. He too bowed and everyone cheered.
"Don't be rude, Frankie," Pradeep said. "You couldn't do what they're doing, could you?"
Frankie glared at Pradeep and flipped out of the flagon and onto the wall. He scooped up several pebbles in his mouth and then shuffled around so he was facing one of the trumpets at the side of the tournament area. With a series of pops, he shot the pebbles out of his mouth. Every single one pinged off the end of the brass trumpet, sounding like a machine-gun splatter of tiny bells.
Frankie wiped his fins, looked at us with a look that said, "And you were saying?" and jumped back into the flagon.
ON TARGET FOR EVIL
"OK, that was pretty impressive," mumbled Pradeep as the third knight stepped forward. He was wearing silver armor and had a white horse on his breastplate and shield.
"Please welcometh ... the Knight-Mare!" Motley Fool shouted and the crowd groaned. The Knight-Mare bowed, but I swear he looked a bit disappointed that no one else liked his name.
In a second, Frankie's eyes went from regular goldfish white to swirling green.
"Pradeep!" I whispered, pointing at Frankie.
"Oh no," said Pradeep. "His zombie goldfish sense must be telling him something evil is going on."
At that moment, the last knight in the tournament stepped forward. He was all in black. Black armor, black helmet and black shield. He was tall and broad and stood perfectly still, waiting to be introduced.
"It seems we haveth a latecomer to the tournament ..." Motley Fool began. He frowned at his list of knights. "But I hast not a name for this noble knight."
Mark suddenly stood up and shouted out, "I was talking to him earlier, and he said his name was ... ummmm ... errr ... Knight."
"Simply, 'Knight'?" Motley Fool asked.
"Nnno, Nnnnight!" Sanj stood up and shouted. "Becnnnause he is blannnck as nnnnight."
"I am sorry, noble sir, what language doeth thou speaketh?" Motley Fool asked.
Mark interrupted, "Ummm. It's 'Night,' like black as the night. So he's like ... a Night Knight! Yeah, cool."
"Welcome, noble Night Knight!" Motley Fool jingled, and the crowd clapped again.
* * *
The contest had begun and Frankie seemed to have calmed down, although he kept sticking his head out of the flagon and looking around suspiciously.
"It must have been Mark and Sanj that set off Frankie's zombie senses," I said to Pradeep, who nodded, not taking his eyes off the archers. The Knight of the Rose had landed his first arrow within the smallest circle. Then the Knight of the Crown fired, and his shot was also close to the center of the target.
"That was nearly a bull's-eye!" one of the Lords shouted.
"Hey, why is the center of a target called a bull's-eye?" I asked.
"In archery it isn't, actually," said Pradeep. "If you hit the central yellow ring it's called 'hitting the gold.'"
The third knight was about to shoot. The Knight-Mare aimed his arrow carefully, then drew back his bow and fired. The arrow hit the target square in the center.
"Good 'hitting the gold'!" I shouted. The crowd looked up at me with a combined expression that read, "WHAT?"
"They obviously don't appreciate real archery," Pradeep said, and sighed.
The Night Knight was the final archer to compete. I caught sight of Sanj fiddling with his wizard's wand, pointing it toward the knight.
"Do you think Sanj actually believes he has magical powers?" I joked, pointing at him.
Just then the Night Knight pulled back his bow in one strong but jerky motion. He paused for a second to shift his aim ... then fired. The arrow hurtled through the air and drove straight into the shaft of the Knight-Mare's arrow, splitting it clean in two. The crowd went wild, but the Night Knight didn't even bother to wave. He just stood still and waited.
Frankie thrashed angrily in his flagon. His eyes were a bright zombie green.
Pradeep tapped me on the shoulder. He was pointing at Mark, who was standing up and holding his hat in a way that looked like he was hiding something. Mark looked over at Sanj and nodded. Sanj smiled.
"What are they up to?" I said to Pradeep.
A KNIGHT THAT'S NOT ALL RIGHT
"What a triumphant victory for the noble Night Knight!" Motley Fool shouted. "Never before hath I seen such shooting." He shook his jingly stick and the applause died down. "We haveth a victor in the first competition, but who shall be crowneth the champion of all?"
With that the Night Knight strode jerkily past the other knights, out of the arena and into the crowd. He headed around the walls toward the back of the castle.
"The knights will now partake in some refreshment," Motley Fool announced. "Your morning activities shall commence forthwith."
Frankie's eyes had gone back to a normal color, but he still looked edgy.
"Maybe we should get Frankie something to eat to calm him down?" I suggested.
We climbed down and followed a trail of green slime that was dripping from the side of the castle walls, pulling bits off for Frankie to chew on. Zombie goldfish only eat green food — the moldier and slimier the better — but Frankie also has a thing for green sweets. We were so busy collecting slime that we didn't even notice that we had walked up to the Night Knight until we were standing right next to him.
"Er, hello, Sir Night Knight," I said in surprise. Frankie's eyes flashed green, so I quickly pushed him into the flagon and covered the top with my hand.
The Night Knight didn't even look at us.
"Um, could we just get to that section of green wall behind you, please?" Pradeep added as we tried to squeeze past. "We're collecting slime for ... um, a project. ..."
Just as we started scraping off some really gooey bits, the Knight-Mare walked up and tapped the Night Knight on the shoulder.
The black knight didn't move. (Continues...)
Excerpted from My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O'Hara, Marek Jagucki. Copyright © 2015 Mo O'Hara. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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