Amelia Fang would much rather hang out with her pet pumpkin Squashy and her friends Florence the yeti (DON'T CALL HER BEAST!) and Grimaldi the reaper than dance at her parents' annual Barbaric Ball.
Then the King's spoiled son Tangine captures Squashy, Amelia and her friends must escape the party to plan a daring rescue!
In their race against time, they begin to realize things in Nocturnia may not be quite what they seem...
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It was a dark and gloomy Wednesday night in Nocturnia. Countess Frivoleeta Fang sipped her Scream Tea and tapped the dining-room table with her long black fingernails as the clock struck four a.m.
“Drake, my darkness, you do know it’s our annual Barbaric Ball in just three nights?” Countess Frivoleeta cooed. “We still have invitations to send, catering to sort out and— oh, did you book the Howling Wolf Band?”
Count Drake’s eyes widened. “Erm . . . I’ll phone them tonight, dearest rat brains.”
“And, Drakey, you’ll need to wear your best suit for the ball. None of those Hawaiian graveyard shirts you like so much. We really must find a way to unstick all that goblin slime from last year’s ball too . . .”
(Goblins were notorious for leaving slime trails—stickier than the stickiest super glue, they were impossible to remove!)
“Not another Barbaric Ball,” moaned Amelia Fang, slumping back into her chair. “They’re always full of old monsters wearing too many frills and far too much Eau de Decay.”
Amelia had just turned ten and would rather hang out with her best friends, Florence and Grimaldi, than go to the ball. “Amelia Fang! I won’t have any of that bat-chat from you,” the countess said sternly. “Firstly, Eau de Decay is the finest perfume in all of Nocturnia. It’s made from fermented bat spit with a hint of rotten banana, after all! And secondly, the Barbaric Ball is a family tradition. It’s our chance to show everyone how fang-tastic we are.”
Amelia knew this already. The Fang family had hosted the Barbaric Ball for generations. It was THE annual event in Nocturnia. Only the most ghoulish and ghastly were invited, and the ball was Countess Frivoleeta’s pride and joy.
“But I get so bored,” Amelia grumbled. “It would be much better if someone my own age were there!”
“You know the ball is only for grown-ups,” the countess said.
“Then surely I don’t have to go?” Amelia said hopefully.
“Of course you have to go. You must learn the ropes so that you can carry on the Barbaric Ball tradition!” her mother said with a gleeful grin.
“But what if I don’t want to?” Amelia mumbled. “I want to study pumpkinology when I grow up, and help sick pumpkins.”
Countess Frivoleeta burst out laughing. “Darkling! Don’t be silly. Oh, you’ll make my eye makeup run!” She checked her face in the mirror behind her, then blew herself a kiss. (You may have heard that vampires don’t have reflections. That is false, and no one loved theirs more than Countess Frivoleeta.) “You’d ruin your delicate vampiress hands with all the digging. Now sit up straight for dinner,” she continued. “Wooo!”
Amelia sighed as a ghost floated into the room, carrying a tray of something that looked like a pile of big boogies.
It was useless for Amelia to try to speak to her mother about what she wanted. Being a Fang meant countless vampiress etiquette lessons, cobwebbing practice and never-ending preparations for the Barbaric Ball. Sometimes Amelia wished she belonged to a different family.
“Your Flabbergasting Fettuccine, Countess,” said Wooo. He was the most respected ghost butler in all of Nocturnia.
(Contrary to popular belief, vampires don’t actually live on a diet of blood. It gives them very stinky breath!)
“Thank you, Wooo. That will be all,” the countess said.
Amelia flapped her wings grumpily and flicked a piece of fettuccine onto the floor. Her pet pumpkin, Squashy, gobbled it up, then bounced onto Amelia’s lap.
“Hey, Squashy!” Amelia giggled. “Have some more fettuccine! I know it’s your favorite.”
Squashy wiggled his stem from side to side in agreement.
“Maybe the king will come to the ball this year?” Amelia said through a mouthful of sour spinach.
“Not likely,” Countess Frivoleeta said. “He hasn’t stepped outside the palace since the fairy incident.” She looked at her husband. “Drakey, my awful little germinoid, you should really make more of an effort to see King Vladimir. You two used to be such good friends.”
Count Drake gave a long sigh. “Dearest belch-breath, it’s no use. He won’t see or speak to anyone anymore.”
“Such a shame,” Countess Frivoleeta said. “Ever since he canceled your weekly Eyebowls game, you’ve been completely obsessed with those silly word-crosses. . . .”
“Crosswords, dear,” Count Drake said.
“If the king DID accept our invitation to the ball, do you think he would bring his son?” Amelia asked. Her eyes lit up for a moment. “Or is Prince Tangine not allowed to come either, because he’s not old?”
“Prince Tangine is the future king, for serpent’s sake! He is ALWAYS invited,” the countess sang. “But remember, Amelia,” Count Drake added, “the prince’s mother DID get eaten by a fairy. I’d be surprised if the king ever lets him outside the palace walls.”
“Grieving goblins, I’d go mad if I couldn’t go and see my friends,” Amelia said.
“Enough chitchat. Now, Amelia, eat up before your fettuccine gets cold, then off to bed,” Countess Frivoleeta said, prodding at her daughter’s cheeks. “We must keep your skin looking pale and deathlike!”
“But, Mooom, it’s the final of The Great Gothic Gravestone Carve-Off tonight! Can’t I stay up for just a bit longer?” Amelia said.
Suddenly, a huge BOOOOOOONG! echoed through the house.
“Drake, my little sweat gland, are we expecting visitors?” Countess Frivoleeta said. “Wooo!” she called without waiting for her husband’s reply. “Please answer that immediately.”
Moments later, Wooo appeared holding a gold envelope.
“You have a letter, Countess. It appears to be from the king.”