Gustav Gloom and the Castle of Fear #6

Gustav Gloom and the Castle of Fear #6

Gustav Gloom and the Castle of Fear #6

Gustav Gloom and the Castle of Fear #6

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Overview

Gustav and Fernie continue their journey through Dark Country in this new title!

In the final installment of Adam-Troy Castro's creepy Gustav Gloom series, the fate of the Dark Country rests on Gustav and Fernie's shoulders.  After weeks of traveling on a quest to find their fathers, Fernie and Gustav finally come face-to-face with their nemesis—the evil Lord Obsidian. Filled with heroic action sequences, terrifying chills, and plenty of humor, this final book will keep fans on the edge of their seats.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780448464596
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 08/16/2016
Series: Gustav Gloom Series , #6
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 679,000
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 1120L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Adam-Troy Castro has said in interviews that he likes to jump genres and styles and has therefore refused to ever stay in place long enough to permit the unwanted existence of a creature that could be called a "typical" Adam-Troy Castro story. As a result, his short works range from the wild farce of his Vossoff and Nimmitz tales to the grim Nebula nominee "Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs." His twenty prior books include a nonfiction analysis of the Harry Potter phenomenon, four Spider-Man adventures, and three novels about his interstellar murder investigator, Andrea Cort (including a winner of the Philip K. Dick Award, Emissaries from the Dead). Adam's other award nominations include eight Nebulas, two Hugos, and three Stokers. Adam lives in Florida with his wife, Judi, and three insane cats named Uma Furman, Meow Farrow, and Harley Quinn.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Return of the People Taker
 
Once upon a time, there was a very awful man by the name of Ernest J. Throckworthy.
 
There is no particular reason to remember that name, silly as it was, because he stopped using it very early on in life and after a while might not have been able to recall it himself. It’s much more helpful to refer to him by the name he used for himself, whenever he was out and about doing terrible things: the People Taker.
 
It was under this title that he spent many years doing monstrous things in the world of light, and then later on many years serving an even more horrific master, Lord Obsidian.
 
It was also under this ominous job title that he twice fought the very brave young boy named Gustav Gloom, and Gustav’s best friend, the not quite as strange but just as brave young girl named Fernie What.
 
Neither of these confrontations worked out at all well for the People Taker, which is why he now found himself imprisoned in one of the most aggravating of the Gloom mansion’s many chambers.
 
The Room of Being Delayed Indefinitely resembled every waiting room anybody had ever had to spend an unwanted hour in, complete with uncomfortable chairs, magazines nobody would ever want to read, and a wall clock that ticked constantly but somehow never progressed past 3:24. Neither of the two doors, facing each other on opposite walls, ever opened. Maybe they couldn’t open.
 
The People Taker spent what felt like days or even weeks pacing back and forth in that room, screaming at the walls and trying to find things he could break in fits of rage, which was impossible, as the tables and chairs were bolted to the floor, and even the magazines were petrified objects that could not be detached from the surfaces they lay on. It was torment. He who had made a career of taking people now couldn’t even take objects.
 
He might have gone mad with frustration, but then, he’d always been mad, so there wouldn’t have been much of a difference.
 
Then, after what seemed like forever, a familiar voice came through the loudspeaker on the wall. “Hello? Can you hear me?”
 
The People Taker recognized the soft and elegant voice as belonging to a beautiful if evil shadow named Ursula, who last he heard had been eaten by some kind of dinosaur.
 
He almost hurled himself at the speaker in desperation. “Yesssss, I can hhhhhear you! Are you imprisssssoned here, too?”
 
Her laugh was soft, musical, lovely, and completely vicious. “That’s cute. No, Mr. People Taker, you’re in a place built for prisoners of flesh and blood. That would prove no prison for one made of what I’m made of. I was more appropriately returned to my cell in the Hall of Shadow Criminals.”
 
The People Taker felt an emotion that was normally utterly alien to him: embarrassment at having said something stupid. “Oh.”
 
“The good news, darling, is that I am no longer a prisoner there, either. Our dark master, Lord Obsidian, was generous enough to send another army of his faceless shadows to smash the cells and free any who would agree to serve him. Of the entire population of that terrible prison, only one, Hieronymus Spector, foolishly refused our master’s offer; the rest are free and either on their way to the Dark Country to join Obsidian’s army, or here with me, to speak with you.”
 
The People Taker jumped up and down in excitement. “Then fffffree me, curse you! I nnnnneed to get my hands on the What brats!”
 
The People Taker was not the most gracious of losers.
 
Ursula cooed, “I’m afraid I have to tell you that Gustav and the What girls and their father and their cat are all already down in the Dark Country and beyond our reach. Lord Obsidian sends word that he has plans for all of them that no longer require us.”
 
The People Taker cursed at this news. He had made such wonderfully nasty plans for Gustav and Fernie and Pearlie and their father and that wretched cat.
 
“However,” Ursula continued, “our liege still needs a flesh-and-blood ally to capture the fourth and final member of the What family. He is therefore still willing to employ you, if you are willing to risk facing the awful consequences of failing him a third time.”
 
“Yesssss! Anything! Just fffffreeeee me!”
 
“Very well,” said Ursula.
 
The door to his right clicked open.
 

**********
 

The grand parlor of the Gloom mansion had changed since the last time the People Taker had seen it. He knew that a number of the staircases linking some of the higher floors had collapsed during his last attempt to capture the What family, burying the floor and much of the fine furniture under twisted rubble. The wreckage had been cleared, the dust had been swept, and much of the damage had either been repaired or allowed to heal in the bizarre manner that this house always seemed to regenerate from its regular catastrophes, but the throngs of shadowy residents who were always visible mingling in the parlor, whatever else might have been happening around them, were now absent, having fled to their hiding places rather than spend any time around the sinister army gathered for Lord Obsidian’s glory.
 
There must have been many hundreds of shadows, from the faceless shadow warriors who had just come up from the Dark Country, to the convicts they had freed from the Hall of Shadow Criminals. Most of the shadow warriors were faceless things without obvious personalities. The shadow criminals were all versions of recognizable human types, from the beautiful Ursula to the rather stupid Otis to snarling, leering, and scowling villains of every other type, some of whom had already made it clear to the People Taker that they didn’t appreciate having to work with a “warm” like him.
 
The leader of the gang known as the Four Terrors, Nebuchadnezzar, was not present; according to Ursula, he had last been seen heading for the Dark Country and was probably still trying to catch Gustav and the What girls himself. That was okay, she said. Among the shadows in the room now were some of the greatest nightmares that the human or shadow world had ever known, and they would be more than up to any challenge.
 
Ursula addressed the crowd: “The mother of Fernie and Pearlie What, Nora What, is a professional adventurer. She travels all over the world of light confronting challenges for something the humans call television.”
 
“Never heard of such a thing,” said one of the shadow criminals, a thug with one missing eye and a bulging jaw and forehead. “Hate it just on general principle.”
 
The gathered shadow criminals nodded and murmured to one another, agreeing that whatever the strange television thing was, it was human and therefore worth hating.
 
“Many people do, apparently. It’s only important to know that this strange job keeps her away from home for weeks or months at a time. Our spotters in the house’s east tower reported seeing one of the human vehicles dropping her off at her home earlier today. It should not be long before she comes knocking here to try to find her family. When she does, it will be the People Taker’s job to answer the door and lure her inside . . . so that we may swarm and capture her, take her to the Pit, and deliver her into our master’s clutches.”
 
The gathered shadow criminals nodded and murmured some more, liking any plan that involved throwing a human being into a bottomless pit.
 
In their midst, the People Taker snarled. He was not happy. He had until recently been one of Lord Obsidian’s most valued servants, trusted with the command of monsters like the Beast, and assassins like the Four Terrors. Now, diminished by his failures, he was seen as no more than a messenger boy, fit only to open doors and play his role. He swore to himself that he would not be defeated this time. He promised that when this Nora What knocked on the door, he would not just play his role perfectly, but would also make her pay in the most terrible fashion for all the humiliations he had suffered at the hands of her simpering daughters.
 
The knock on the mansion’s massive front doors echoed throughout the grand parlor.
 
“That will be her,” said Ursula. “Play your role, dear. And this time, try not to mess up.”
 
The People Taker grimaced again, nodded to indicate his understanding of the one menial role left to him, and headed into the entrance hall. As he went, he tamed his fierce, evil expression, and took on a gentle and unthreatening look to match the role he would wear to disguise his true intentions: that of Brad Gloom, a kind and gentle and neighborly man, who wouldn’t dream of hurting anybody, not even a fly. But inside he thought of his favorite activity in all the world: taking.
 
He thought, I’m coming to take  you, Nora What.
 
This time there will be no escape for a member of  your family.
 
This time, even if  you prove to be as dangerous as  your daughters, even if  you prove able to evade me,   you will also have an army of shadows to contend with. You will not escape. Lord Obsidian will have  you, and I will have the pleasure of knowing I took at least one of  you.
 
You are doomed.

 
He used up the last of his snickers and opened the door.
 

Chapter Two: The Fate Worse Than Death Deluxe

 
Since first meeting her strange friend Gustav Gloom, Fernie What had spent more time fighting monsters and fleeing dinosaurs and traveling through time and space than the vast majority of other children her age, but she was still only ten years old, and that meant there were still any number of activities on her want list that she had never had a chance to try for herself.
 
For instance, she’d never ridden a grizzly bear, she’d never driven a submarine, she’d never played tennis on the wings of an airplane in flight, and she’d never eaten chocolate-covered grasshoppers.
 
Other unusual experiences were not on her want list.
 
She had never once wanted to be prodded along a narrow catwalk by the evil minions of a world-conquering villain as she was brought back to his castle as a prisoner.
 
That had never been among her plans.
 
But that was the situation she found herself in now.
 
Behind her, her guard said, “Careful, you.”
 
He said this because the catwalk was only a couple of feet across, only wide enough for Fernie and her fellow captives to traverse it in single file. There were no safety railings to prevent a terrible fall, an omission that must have upset Fernie’s safety-expert father very much when he’d been brought as a prisoner to the same castle some time ago. He was famous for always wanting safety railings on everything.
 
Fernie needed to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other and keeping her balance, but couldn’t resist asking her guard, “Why would you warn me to be careful? I’m just a prisoner, right?”
 
“That’s true,” the guard said.
 
“Then why would you care if I fell over the side and died?”
 
“I wouldn’t,” the guard said, “but this is my one job, and I like to be good at it. So hurry along.”
 
“Which do you want me to do? Be careful or hurry along? I can’t do both.”
 
The guard hesitated. “You’re right.”
 
“So what do you want me to do?”
 
“Be careful hurrying along,” the guard suggested, “and don’t give me any more lip about it, or I’ll just pitch you over the edge and take the poor performance review.”
 
Fernie didn’t want to be pitched over the side and take what would have been a lethal fall into the courtyard a couple of hundred feet below, so she did what the guard ordered and was careful hurrying along.
 
This was precisely the kind of thing she supposed she had to accept as the first in a long line of prisoners who had just been brought to this castle and were each now being escorted across the narrow catwalk by their own personal guard.
 
Despite the warning to be careful, she glanced over her shoulder, through the hulking and transparent gray form of her guard, to the form behind him, her twelve-year-old sister, Pearlie. Pearlie was more unsteady on the catwalk than Fernie was and had to extend both her arms for balance.
 
Behind Pearlie was another shadow guard, grim-faced and big-jawed and glowering so nastily that he might have been trying to set fire to something with the heat of his gaze.
 
Behind him was the pale, serious form of Fernie’s best friend, Gustav Gloom, looking as always oddly calm and composed despite being surrounded by hostile enemies on all sides. Behind him marched another shadow guard, this one a woman with long stringy hair and eyes that looked more like boreholes some rodent had dug in a piece of wood.
 
Behind that guard was a burly, bearded innkeeper whom Gustav and the What girls had recently met, a longtime human resident who had been cut off from the world of light for so long that he’d forgotten his name, and for convenience’s sake called himself Not-Roger.
 
That was about as far back in the line as Fernie could see at the moment, but she knew there’d be other prisoners back there, including a number of shadow allies: the beautiful Anemone, the mysterious hooded Caliban, and Not-Roger’s own shadow (who couldn’t remember Not-Roger’s real name, either).
 
Farther back, there were even more prisoners, shadow and human, whom Fernie hadn’t met, all of whom were being marched from the slave hold of the same zippalin that had captured Fernie and her friends.
 
This struck Fernie as a pretty crowded haul of prisoners, as such things went, but she gathered it wasn’t any larger a collection than the guards of Lord Obsidian’s castle were used to, as none of the ones prodding the group along seemed to be particularly impressed.
 
“Hey,” Fernie’s guard said. “I thought I told you to hurry along.”
 
“Sorry,” said Fernie. “I’m just checking on my sister and the rest of my friends.”
 
“You’re the prisoner of Lord Obsidian now. You’re not allowed sisters or friends. If you’re smart, you’ll just do what you’re ordered to do and look out for what’s going to happen to you if you don’t.”
 
Fernie said, “Okay, but since I’ve already been told that falling into Lord Obsidian’s hands is a Fate Worse Than Death, all by itself, just how much worse could the punishment for not hurrying along be? Is it, like, The Fate Even Worse Than The Fate Worse Than Death? Or The Fate Worse Than Death Deluxe?”
 
“That does it,” said the guard. “You’re in real trouble now. I’m going to report your attitude to the boss.”
 
“Gee,” said Fernie. “And here I was, doing so well up until this point.”
 
The guard prodded her with his spear-point, not enough to draw blood but enough to suggest that he’d only let her get away with as much mockery as he was willing to take.
 
Fernie shrugged and went back to carefully hurrying along.
 
All in all, she considered this far from the most fun she’d ever had. The Dark Country was a gray and dreary place to begin with, and the ebony castle of Lord Obsidian was not much improved for being the first halfway-civilized place she’d encountered since her arrival. It was just a collection of shadowy gray towers connected by great stone walls that separated the grounds into what amounted to open pens.
 
The towers and walls numbered in the dozens, all rising high above a deep churning gray mist that looked pretty much the same on all sides of the separating walls. The only real detail to the landscape was a pair of suspiciously round black mountains dominating the horizon to Fernie’s right, each of them rising so high into the sky that their peaks were lost in the clouds above. Something about those mountains looked familiar, but her mind refused to identify exactly how. She had the idea that it was sparing her the moment of recognition because she had too much else to worry about right now.
 
Looking straight down at the misty courtyard below her wasn’t much better. From time to time it came into focus as a sea of forlorn shadow-faces moaning about the hopelessness of their lot.
 
Fernie risked another question. “Who are they?”
 
“More prisoners,” the guard behind her explained. “Enemies of the great Obsidian. The shadows who tried to resist him are even worse off, being captured by him, than you human types are. He uses them, he does.”
 
Had Fernie not already possessed good reason to consider Gustav Gloom’s enemy Lord Obsidian a real creep, the sight of all those despairing shadows would have provided her with a fine first clue. It wasn’t the kind of sight nice people preferred to see from their castles. It was the kind of sight awful people used to remind themselves of all the unhappiness they’d caused. Only a real villain wanted to look out his window and see that kind of thing before breakfast.
 
Up ahead, the catwalk ended at an ominous stone tower studded with balconies from which many armored shadow minions shouted nasty things at the prisoners being brought toward them. Unlike most of the shadows Fernie and Pearlie and Gustav had seen so far—who, like their fellow prisoners Anemone and Caliban and Not-Roger’s shadow, had all tended to look pretty human—these had taken on more monstrous shapes, almost as if it would not have been enough for them to just look like bad people; they had to look like things worse than people, or things that ate people.
 
“’Ey!” said one whose mouth sported a pair of walrus tusks. “Look over there! I’ll sell me nose if that’s not Gustav Gloom!”
 
An apelike figure cried, “The master will be ’appy about this, ’e will, ’e will. ’E’s been ranting about Gustav Gloom for a while now!”
 
“Aye, ’e has such plans for the boy . . . !”
 
“. . . And who’s that red-haired little girl walking along in front of them? Not the little one with the curls . . . the taller one! That must be the other one the master wants: Fernie What!”
 
Behind Fernie, Pearlie cried out, “Shows how much you know, you big dummies! I’m not Fernie! I’m her bigger and tougher sister!”
 
“Oi! You hear that?”
 
“I did, I did! There’s a tougher sister!”
 
“Won’t do either one of ’em any good! It won’t, it won’t! They’ll both lose what toughness they have slaving in Lord Obsidian’s mines!”
 
“It’s just interesting that there’s a tougher sister, that’s all!”
 
“She don’t look so bloomin’ tough now! None of ’em do! Lookit them, all prisoners being led to a fate worse than death!”
 
The catwalk ended at a platform with a massive door overseen by an elderly, robed shadow whose eyebrows were so long at the sides that they joined his bushy mustache and beard in drooping all the way to the floor. He peered over his foggy bifocals at the four human beings who were the first of his prisoners, and said, “All right, all right, everybody, pipe down. This lot still has to be processed. Please line them up in front of me, will you? The three children over there, and that big bearded fellow . . . Yes, that’s right. Him. Excellent.”
 
Now that they were standing side by side, Fernie reached for Gustav’s hand. He took hers and squeezed, a grip that betrayed no particular fear of the horrors they now faced. She glanced over and confirmed that he was holding Pearlie’s hand as well, and that Pearlie was doing the same for the comically huge Not-Roger.
 
The shadow in the bifocals rolled back one page of the stack of papers on his clipboard and read his next words from something printed there, rushing through the text in a monotone, as if he’d delivered this speech so many times that it had ceased to have any meaning for him. “Be grateful, insignificant worms. Your puny lives are now the property of the all-wise, all-powerful Lord Obsidian, conqueror of the shadow realm and future destroyer of the world of light. Any complaints  you might have about  your treatment after  you pass through this door should be kept to  yourselves, as nobody who will be placed in charge of   you cares. If  you wish to survive, just remember this one thing: that if  you disobey us in any way, it can always get much worse.”
 
He rolled the top sheet back, adjusted his bifocals, and said, “Right. So let’s get to it. My name is Scrofulous, and it’s my solemn duty to decide just which fate worse than death, out of all the many options provided to us by our lord and master, you will come to suffer from now until the end of time.”
 
“Sounds like a fun job,” said Fernie.
 
“Why, yes, it is. Please cooperate, and this can be a brief and convenient experience for all of us.” He flipped the papers again and said, “Right. I’m told that one of you is the boy Gustav Gloom?”
 
Gustav Gloom released the hands of the What sisters so he could step forward and jab a proud thumb at his chest. “I’m Gustav Gloom.”
 
“Would you be the Gustav Gloom who’s also the son of Hans and the grandson of Lemuel?”
 
“That’s me,” Gustav confirmed.
 
Scrofulous peered through the bifocals that enlarged his eyes and made them look as big as dinner plates. “Do you have any identification attesting to that, young man?”
 
“Sorry, no. I guess you’ll have to let me go.”
 
Scrofulous spent the next few seconds blinking, as if this was an option that had never been mentioned to him before and he had to give it careful consideration before rejecting it out of hand. Then he coughed and said, “Ah, I see. A joke. We don’t have those here. Our lord and master has declared them illegal. In any event, I do suppose it’s safe enough to assume that you are who you say you are, since this is Lord Obsidian’s place of power, and nobody with even an ounce of self-preservation would claim to be the son of his greatest enemy, unless he was. Our lord has been quite clear in his daily, crazed, inspirational rants that you were to be delivered to him the instant you were captured. So you, at least, we’ve got sorted out.”
 
Gustav shook his head and said, “Sorry. But no.”

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