Something strange is afoot in EdwinlandKing Edwin's arch nemesis Emperor Nurbison isn't acting like himself. He's smiling. He's cheerful. He's even making toys for the peasants! King Edwin knows he must be up to something. But what?
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The Ninth of Janvember
Long, long ago, there was a time called "the olden days." The olden days came before nowadays, which is when we live. But it came after "the olden olden days," when everybody lived in caves and spoke in grunts and hit each other with clubs all day.
The olden days was a time of magic and monsters and knights and castles. And in one of those castles there lived a nine-year-old boy. His name was King Edwin Flashypants, and he was about to hide inside a box of cornflakes.
If you try this in your kitchen, you won't fit, unless you've just shrunk to the size of a pencil case — and if you have, then please see a doctor right away. But Edwin was a king, so he had a giant box of cereal specially made for banquets. It was as big as a mattress.
His friends gave him a leg up. He tumbled inside with a FLUMP-SCRUNCH and poked two holes in the cardboard so he could see out.
"She'll be waking up soon!" said Edwin. "Everybody hide, quick as you can!"
Edwin's pals hurried around the castle's kitchen.
Minister Jill, the grown-up who helped Edwin with the difficult bits of running a kingdom, crawled into a sack of potatoes.
Centurion Alisha and her palace guards hid among the pots and pans.
Baxter the Hermit, whose beard was longer than he was, did a headstand in a vase. He was pretending to be a potted plant.
"Baxter, she'll see you there for sure," said King Edwin, but Baxter couldn't hear because his ears were full of dirt.
Upstairs in the castle, an alarm clock went BONG.
Megan the Jester jumped out of her jester-shaped bed. She checked the calendar.
"The ninth of Janvember!" said Megan. "It's my birthday!"
She was so excited, she slid down all the banisters in the castle, knocking over Minister Jill's signs that said Please Don't Slide Down the Banisters. Then she ran to the kitchen, where she knew that Edwin and all her friends would be waiting to give her a special birthday breakfast.
But the kitchen was quiet.
"Nobody here," said Megan.
"Everything's normal, except for that weird hairy plant on the table."
She slumped down on the potato sack. For a second, she thought she heard a potato say, "Ouch."
"I suppose I'll have to make my own birthday breakfast," sighed Megan.
She hefted the giant box of cornflakes off the counter. It seemed heavier than normal. Then she tipped it over her favorite bowl. Out came a thousand cornflakes — and a nine-year-old king.
"Surprise!" shouted Edwin.
"SURPRISE!" shouted everybody else as they jumped out from their hiding places.
"You did remember, you did, you did!" said Megan. She couldn't have been happier.
"And now for the birthday presents!" said Edwin.
Centurion Alisha and the other palace guards gave Megan a pogo stick.
"It's a pogo stick," said Centurion Alisha.
"Thanks — oof! Just what I — oof! — wanted — oof!" said Megan, who was already pogoing her head into the kitchen ceiling.
"I wasn't sure what you'd like, so I thought I'd give you money," said Minister Jill. There are some grown-ups who always do that, and Jill was one of them.
Baxter gave Megan a single glove and promised that if she wore it a lot, he would buy her a matching one next year.
"I've made you a present," said King Edwin. "Just close your eyes, Megan ..."
Megan closed her eyes. She hoped it was going to be as wonderful as a pogo stick, money, or a single glove.
"Open them!" said Edwin.
Megan looked. There was a mirror in front of her — and in the mirror, Megan saw she was wearing a hat made from a cardboard box. Paper lightning bolts were held on with tape.
There was a cape made from a comforter around her shoulders. Edwin looked just as strange. What was this all about?
"Hope you like my present, Megan. It's an idea I've had. We're going to play SUPERHEROES!"
Because this was the olden days, and Edwin was the first person ever to think of superheroes, he had to explain what they were.
"Superheroes have costumes and exciting names, and they go around fighting baddies and saving the world with their superpowers!"
"Are superpowers like magic powers?" said Megan.
"No," said Edwin. "Superpowers are different. They're super."
Nobody quite understood the difference, but because Edwin was the king, everyone nodded as if they did.
Edwin handed Megan some Hero Information Cards with everything she needed to know.
Minister Jill thought, Clouds don't have teeth. And sharks can't tickle. This is nonsense. No, I think Megan would have liked a better present, like a nice vase or some light-brown socks or ...
"I love it!" said Megan. "Hey, Shark Boy, let's play superheroes!"
First, they all ate a really special birthday breakfast, with treats like eggs made out of sausage, and sausages made out of egg. Then King Edwin and Megan the Jester played superheroes for the rest of the morning. They saved the world from alien invaders and mechanical monsters.
Think of the best playtime you've ever had with your favorite friend. Now picture that day, but in a big castle full of slides and tunnels and trapdoors. That was the day Edwin and Megan had.
"Imagine if Warriors of Amazing Justice had to fight real villains," said Edwin.
"But the only baddie around here is Emperor Nurbison, and I don't think he'll try anything again," said Megan.
"Ha-ha! Not since we beat him twice, no!"
"We're totally safe forever," said Megan.
For a second, Edwin wondered if being a bit more worried about Emperor Nurbison would be a good thing for a king to do.
Then he thought, Let's go and eat chips.CHAPTER 2
The Cottage and the Cupboard
Emperor Nurbison was all about the hating. Hating was his hobby. He loved to hate stuff, and he hated to love stuff.
He hated white cats because they ran away whenever he tried to stroke them, even though villains are supposed to stroke white cats. He hated rainbows because their pretty colors cheered everybody up. He hadn't yet found a way to chop rainbows down when they appeared, even though he had tried lots of times with a big ax. He hated King Edwin Flashypants most of all, because Edwin stopped him from invading the annoyingly happy and un-hatey place called Edwinland.
The list of things Emperor Nurbison actually liked was very short. There wasn't much on it except "being evil" and "pointy boots."
But even the evilest emperors have to go to visit their mom sometimes.
Nurbison's mom was named Veronica, and she was once an evil empress feared all over the world. Then her knees went. So she retired to a little cottage by the sea with roses climbing all around the front door. Veronica being as evil as she was, they were man-eating roses.
"Globulus! To my side!" said the emperor, and his loyal assistant scurried forward.
"I don't want those roses nipping at my handsome beard when I go in," said the emperor. "But they won't bother me if they're busy chomping your face off, will they, Globulus?"
"You know, like, well, the thing is," said Globulus, "them roses are proper scary, kind of thing, so I —"
The emperor rolled Globulus at the roses. Globulus was the size and shape of a bowling ball, so this wasn't too hard.
Globulus bumped into the biggest flower. It didn't even twitch.
"Good!" said the emperor. "They must be asleep."
Nurbison strode straight for the door. Five roses gnashed him with their thorny jaws.
After leaving Globulus to fight the roses — and after realizing he could have gone in through the back door — the emperor was in the cottage, having tea with his mother.
"Can I tempt you with a cookie, my darling Nurbly-Nibs?" said Empress Veronica, holding out a tray.
Nurbison took the chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips. When he bit into it, he discovered the white chocolate chips were really maggots. If you've ever seen dogs wriggle through a line of poles at a dog show — that's what the little creatures were doing around the emperor's teeth.
"Thank you, Mother," Nurbison muttered.
"Ha! Ha! Ha! The old maggoty cookie prank! Not very dastardly, I know, but it's the best I can do at my age," said Veronica. "So, son, you're an evil emperor — what kind of evilness have you been up to?"
"What evilness haven't I been up to, more like! FOO HOO HOO HOO, Mother, FOO HOO HOO HOO!"
"Foo hoo hoo hoo" was Emperor Nurbison's evil laugh. It could even scare things that don't normally get scared, like tigers or loaves of bread. But no matter how hard he tried — and he was trying — he wasn't sure it was working on his mom.
"Ah, the horrors I have unleashed upon this world!" said Emperor Nurbison. "I poured salt into a sugar bowl, ruining several mugs of tea! I made a pigeon cry by calling it Stumpy Toes! I glued a penny to the pavement, then watched people try to pick it up! Truly, my wickedness knows no bounds! And then I —"
"PAH!" said Veronica. "That's not evil, that's just a bit naughty. A truly evil emperor wouldn't get beaten — twice! — by Edwin Flashypants. You can't even seize a kingdom from a little boy!"
The emperor looked at his shoes. Mom had a point.
"Back in the day, son," said Veronica, "I would have mashed him to paste. Then fed the paste to the wolves. Then blown up the wolves."
She struggled out of her chair, rummaged in a dark cupboard, and pulled out a picture in a grimy old frame. She blew the dust off, making sure to get most of it in Emperor Nurbison's face.
"Quite something when I was young, wasn't I?" she said. "Sword as long as a giraffe's trousers. Eye patch, even though both my eyes were perfectly fine. Kept bumping into things, but oh, I looked terrifying! The things I got up to ..."
Emperor Nurbison had heard this speech before. But he wasn't looking at the picture. He was staring at something that had tumbled out of the cupboard as the empress had been rummaging. Something he hadn't seen since he was a small child.
Years ago, when Nurbison was a boy, his mother had kept it on a shelf. It had beautiful black shiny hair and big gleaming eyes. He used to find it a bit scary.
"... so I boiled the king of the Ant-People with hot water from a massive kettle, and then ... Nurbison, why are you staring at that useless old magic doll?"
"It's magic? Didn't know that," said Emperor Nurbison, yawning as if he weren't very interested. Really, he was very interested indeed.
"Got her from a wizard when I was a girl," said Veronica. "He gave her enchanted hair. When the rays of the full moon touch the hair, she comes to life for a year and a day. But when she does, oh! She just talks about her hair. All the time. Just blabbers on and on and on. Soon learned to keep her out of the moonlight, I can tell you. She's called Miss Dolly-Chops, or something. Only kept her on display because I knew she frightened you."
Old Empress Veronica tossed the picture and the doll back in the cupboard.
"Beloved Mother," said Nurbison, "Empress of my heart. Why don't you sit back in your chair and rest those knees of yours while I put the cookies back in the kitchen?"
"I know what you're up to," said Veronica. "Sneaking an extra cookie. Try and there'll be trouble, young man."
"Mother, I promise I shall not steal a single cookie."
I'm not lying, thought Nurbison. I'm not going to steal any cookies at all. I'm going to steal something else.
Once he was sure his mom wasn't looking, the emperor eased open the cupboard door, hoping it wouldn't creak. He found the doll and stuffed it inside his cloak. Big, swirling cloaks are just the best for hiding stuff you've swiped.
Yes, this magic doll will be very useful, thought Emperor Nurbison. Very useful indeed. I feel a plan forming in my evil-genius brain.
He didn't dare say "Foo hoo hoo hoo" in case his mother figured out he was up to something. So he wrote it down on a piece of paper, looked at it, smiled, then ate the paper. It was tastier than the cookie.CHAPTER 3
A Month Later
It was a month later.
King Edwin sat on his throne, picking scabs off his knees. It had been three whole days since King Edwin's last amazing invention — the skateboard. He made two of them, so Shark Boy and Thundercloud could have one each. But he hadn't invented knee pads yet.
Something was strange. Minister Jill wasn't telling him to stop picking.
"Jill? You're forgetting to say, 'Leave the scabs on; they help your skin to heal.' I could say it for you if you like. Oh wait, I just did."
"I'm not really thinking about your scabs, Edwin — I'm thinking about Emperor Nurbison. He's been acting a bit odd."
That was true. Three weeks before, he had marched up to the dotted line between Edwinland and Nurbisonia, and instead of calling Centurion Alisha a foolish fool, or just invading, he'd said:
A few days after that, the emperor had started wearing a big yellow daisy in his crown. Then he'd let his peasants have a proper bath. Which was strange, because normally the emperor loved his peasants to be filthy and miserable and made them wash their hair with slug juice and brush their teeth with dog sweat.
"There's just something peculiar about it all," said Minister Jill.
A palace guard suddenly popped out of a trapdoor in the floor. There were so many trapdoors and secret passages in Edwin's castle that it was a wonder there was any space left for actual rooms.
"Your Majesty! Minister Jill! The Nurbisonia Times. Just delivered. One copy for each of you."
Jill and Edwin looked at each other in amazement. Nurbisonia had a newspaper now? The evil emperor was letting people read?
First, Jill made herself a big cup of coffee. Most grown-ups need coffee five times a day or they turn into zombies. Just ask them.
Then Jill sat down with the paper. The front page had some very big news.
Jill flicked to the next page.
A NEW NURBISON?
THE BIG INTERVIEW
BY OUR CHIEF REPORTER
After years of being popular and strong and handsome (but also utterly evil), it seems our great emperor's had a change of heart about the whole "evil" thing. We caught up with him in his stunning castle penthouse to find out more ...
THE TIMES: So! Emperor Nurbison, Earl of Unjerland, Overlord of Glenth and Boolander ...
EMPEROR NURBISON: (waving his hand) Oh, you don't have to call me by those fancy titles every time. I see myself as a ... how do people say it? A "regular guy."
THE TIMES: I'll tell you what else people are saying ... "Emperor, why the big change?"
EMPEROR: I'm so glad you asked me that. I used to be very evil indeed. Then I was defeated twice in a row by my delightful neighbor King Edwin Flashypants. Wonderful little chap, love him to death. So I thought to myself: Why does he keep winning? Is good better than evil after all?
On that day, I decided to become a nice emperor. FOO HOO — Oh, sorry. That was my old evil laugh. You won't be hearing that anymore. I've got a new, jolly laugh now. SQUEE HEE HEE HEE! Like it?
THE TIMES: I do. SQUEE HEE HEE HEE! Wow, it's very catchy.
EMPEROR: And I won't stop there. In my evil years I caused a lot of misery. From now on, I'll spread all the happiness I can. I'm becoming a toymaker. I'm turning the castle into a big toy factory. I'll sell the toys in my new toy shops, and with luck ... where I once brought sadness ... I can bring a little bit of joy. Sniff.
EDITOR'S NOTE: AT THIS MOMENT, A TEAR REALLY DID RUN DOWN OUR EMPEROR'S BEAUTIFUL FACE!
THE TIMES: Good luck, Emperor. We can't wait for the first shop to open!
"What do you make of all that?" said Minister Jill to King Edwin.
"Make of what?" said Edwin. "The news? Oh, I don't look at news; it's never fun. But there are comic strips at the back — look. This one's called Mister Poo, and it's about a poo who lives in a house made of poo! You'd enjoy it, Jill. The jokes are very clever."
Jill held the headline under Edwin's nose.
"Nurbison's NICE?" said the king. "That IS big news. Why did they hide it on the front page?"
All of a sudden, the sky went dark. There was a thundering sound on the roof, like the heaviest rain King Edwin had ever heard.
But it wasn't rain.
"Newspapers!" said Jill.
High above Edwinland, hundreds of the emperor's crows were dropping copies of the Nurbisonia Times. Everybody in Edwinland picked one up and read it.
Seconds later, Megan the Jester burst into the throne room. She pulled off her Thundercloud hat and cape.
"Have you seen it? Have you? Have you seen it? Have you seen it? Have you? Have you seen it? Have you? Have you? Have you seen it?" said Megan, breathless. "The emperor's going to make toys! So many toys. I love toys! Can we go to the toy shop as soon as it opens? Please? Please?"
When people get older, most of them forget how cool toys are. That's just one of the things that makes grown-ups more boring than kids. But even though she was a grown-up, Megan never forgot, and Edwin loved her for it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "King Flashypants and the Toys of Terror"
Copyright © 2017 Andy Riley.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. The Ninth of Janvember,
2. The Cottage and the Cupboard,
3. A Month Later,
4. Grand Opening,
5. Big Pouty Face,
6. Find the Princess,
7. Hairy Magic,
8. So ... Many ... Nurbisons,
10. The Princess Will See You Now,
11. What We've All Learneda,
About the Author,