Tymmon was thrown out of his kingdom, and has to make his way in the world, but unexpected help from a singing gargoyle will certainly make that easier
In one night, Tymmon’s life is turned upside down. His father, the beloved court jester of Austernerve, is kidnapped in a night raid. Tymmon escapes his father’s fate but must find shelter in the dark, deep, and dangerous Sombrous Forest. There, he meets another kind of outcast: Troff, a fearsome-looking dog-like gargoyle with an unexpectedly gorgeous singing voice. Together, the two form a great duo: Tymmon plays the flute while Troff sings. They take their act around the kingdom, until a chance encounter with a mysterious old man gives the two an opportunity to save Tymmon’s father, and change Tymmon’s life forever. This ebook features an extended biography of Zilpha Keatley Snyder.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
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|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Zilpha Keatley Snyder (b. 1927) is a three-time Newbery Honor–winning author of adventure and fantasy novels for children. Her smart, honest, and accessible narrative style has made her books beloved by generations. When not writing, she enjoys reading and traveling. Snyder lives in Mill Valley, California.
Read an Excerpt
Song of the Gargoyle
By Zilpha Keatley Snyder
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1991 Zilpha Keatley Snyder
All rights reserved.
It was well after midnight on a chill, dim night in early spring, and beneath a cloud-haunted sky Austerneve Castle slept deeply and heedlessly. In the castle's many chambers, in rooms large and small, on hard, narrow pallets and in grand canopied beds, bodies lay limply and minds drifted deep in dream. Even at the great gate the sentinels slumped at their posts. And in the tiny guardhouse beside the postern gate two aged watchmen rested their old heads on a table amid scattered chess pieces and snored peacefully.
Far up in the northwest tower, in a large round room that had once been a sentinels' wardroom, a boy of scarcely thirteen years was also sound asleep. Tymmon, son of Komus, the court jester of Austerneve, was sleeping peacefully and well, until he was awakened by a mysterious sound.
Startled wide awake as suddenly as if shaken by an unseen hand, Tymmon was not sure what he had heard. At that moment of waking he only knew that there had been a sound, and that its blurred echoes were still throbbing through his sleep-clouded mind. It was only later, perhaps, in memory, that it seemed to have been a voice calling his name from a great distance.
"Tymmon," a far faint voice might have cried. "Wake up, Tymmon. They are coming."
But he could not be certain. Memories do tend to shrink over time, and perhaps it followed that some of them might grow instead—in new and important directions. And there had been moments when Tymmon had wondered how much he remembered clearly of that strange awakening. Perhaps, in the long hours that followed, his memory of that awful night had been shaped and slanted by dreams.
"Too much of your life is dream-patterned," his father had once told him. "You fool yourself with your dreaming." Tymmon had frowned, and as he often did, his father softened his scolding by making a jest of it. Crossing his eyes and lolling his tongue, he did one of his comical loose-legged capers and then, bending down to Tymmon's height, went on. "We whose lives depend on fooling cannot afford to fool ourselves."
Komus's words had angered Tymmon, and he had thought of saying, "Your life, Father, not mine." But biting his tongue, he had only muttered, "My dreams are not of fooling." Which, of course, meant much the same—if Komus had been listening.
But one thing was certain. It had been a strange sound, faint but clear, that had roused him that night during the dark, still hours before dawn. And it was also certain that the course of his life had been changed forever by that awakening.
At first he only sat up in bed, his heart racing and his breath coming in short gasps, as if he had just returned from the depths of some terrible nightmare, although he had no memory of such a dream. It was only the sound that he remembered—and the mysterious sense of grief and loss that followed it.
Crossing himself, he muttered a paternoster before he put aside the heavy sheepskin coverlet and rose to his feet. For a moment only he paused again, listening intently, but the call, if there had been one, did not repeat itself. He was calm now, his heart no longer racing, and it seemed to be only a vague uneasy curiosity that made him move forward through the inky darkness, feeling his way along the wall. He passed the hearth, where buried coals still glowed faintly from beneath the ash, and then circled out around the curtained bed where his father was still sleeping, breathing deeply and evenly.
There he lay, Komus, sound asleep in the fine four-poster bed that had been a gift from King Austern—a magnificent bed, draped and curtained like a stage. Tymmon silently pulled back the bed curtain and gestured grandly as if the bed were indeed a stage and as if he were presenting its occupant to an admiring audience.
Step up and feast your eyes, ladies and gentlemen. Here lies Komus, world-famous jester in the court of King Austern—and even more greatly famed as the honored sire of Tymmon the Great.
He grinned—mocking himself and his wild dreams of glory. For the truth of the matter was, of course, that Komus was not really famous. At least not outside of Austerneve, and even there one could hardly say that he was honored. Well known, perhaps, but hardly honored. Not as a clown and jester—a buffoon who earned his bread by making himself ridiculous. And certainly not honored for being the father of Tymmon, who was not great or famous either. Or—to put it more fairly—not yet great. Not yet great, perhaps, but one who did have plans. And dreams, if you will. Glorious dreams of ...
A sudden realization that his feet on the stone floor were becoming as cold as the stones themselves interrupted Tymmon's musing. Silently replacing the curtain, he moved on around the bed and back to the wall, to follow its curve to where his groping fingers found the first of the hand and toeholds that led up to the lookout window.
There were four of the high windows in the old wardroom—east, west, north, and south. Long ago they had been connected by a scaffolding, and a member of the palace guard had manned the lookout day and night to spy out the approach of dangerous visitors. Such careful watches had been necessary then, when it had been the custom for noble neighbors to pay murderous visits on each other's towns and castles. But now, with the North Countries long united under the peaceful reign of the High King, such precautions were no longer needed. And so the scaffolding and the ladder that led up to it had rotted away, and now no one could reach the window ledges.
No one, that is, except Tymmon himself, and he only this west ledge where age and erosion had made an ascent possible if one was young and agile and adept at finding toe and fingerholds in the chinks and crannies of the old stone wall.
From long practice he found the footholds easily, and a moment later he was stretched out on the deep window ledge, peering down into the castle's courtyard far below. The window ledge, padded with goatskins and old cloaks, had long been one of his favorite hideaways, a place to read or dream or look down unseen on courtyard comings and goings—at the bustle of market on Saturday mornings, the drill of the palace guards on Wednesdays or, during almost any hour of the day, at his onetime friend, Lonfar, playing at jousting with the other pages.
Or when he tired of watching such childish games, he could turn and look the other way. Secretly look down into the one large room that was his home. The old guards' room at the top of the northwest tower, which had been granted to Komus free and clear for his lifetime by King Austern IX, ruler of Austerneve, the most ancient and honored kingdom of all the North Countries.
So what had once been a lookout window was still a spy hole in a way. In Tymmon's own private way, where, lying flat and still on the high ledge, he could not only spy on the castle courtyard but even on his own home and hearth—and sometimes watch his unsuspecting father do silly, private things. Such things as preening before a looking glass.
One had to admit that Komus the jester was a fine-featured man—when he wasn't twisting his face into a silly, stupid mask. Indeed, a handsome man, though not especially tall or stalwart or quite as comely, of course, as his young son, Tymmon. But his thatch of gold-brown hair was still thick and curly, his blue eyes wide and clear, his mouth well shaped, and his whole visage pleasant to look upon. That was a fact widely recognized, and recognized also by Komus himself—judging by the amount of time he spent before the glass.
At other times Tymmon had watched his father practicing some new bit of foolish prattle. Some witty bit of nonsense that was no doubt meant to burst forth as if unplanned and unprepared—to the amazement and amusement of King Austern and his guests.
Tymmon had watched from the window many times as his father preened and prattled. Watched secretly and unseen, hidden from view by the wide sill, even when daylight was streaming down above and around him. And so the window hideaway had remained his own private secret. Or so Tymmon had always thought—until that night. Until the night when ...
Far below, the castle grounds were barely visible in the cloud-filtered moonlight. After he had made certain that there was nothing stirring in the courtyard to have caused the noise that awakened him, Tymmon turned away from the barred window and looked back down into the room below.
In the heavy, solid darkness of the tower room he could see nothing at all. But he was still seeing it in memory, remembering all the times he had spied on his father, when suddenly there was another sound. Not an indefinite blurry echo this time but an unmistakable clamor that clearly was not dreamt or imagined. A scuffling, thudding, clinking noise that seemed to come from the stone stairway that wound around the tower and ended at the wardroom door.
As Tymmon listened in dumb amazement, and with a growing sense of alarm, the sound grew quickly louder and then burst into a terrifying crescendo as the door flew open under a rain of heavy blows. Crouching low on the window ledge, he peered down into a scene of wild confusion and only stifled a cry of fear by pressing his hand across his mouth.
There were five of them, five huge men, armed and armored, their faces hidden by visored helmets. Two of them held great torches that filled the guardroom with a flickering red light, and all of them carried broadswords or daggers whose sharp blades reflected the torchlight like smaller tongues of fire. Charging into the room, upsetting chairs and the desk that held Komus's precious hoard of books and manuscripts, they spread out into a semicircle around a heavy-bodied man in a snouted black helmet who seemed to be their leader. The heavy man was shouting, but the words, echoing inside his helmet, came out in blurred fragments, without sense or meaning.
The muffled voice was still roaring when the bed curtains were thrown aside and Komus appeared in their midst. Komus, in his old ragged nightshirt, his hair wild and tangled, his face pale and tense in the flickering torchlight. Standing now only a pace away from the huge armored leader of the intruders, he looked, in comparison, pitifully small and frail—with his wide eyes and tousled hair, more like a slightly worn and weathered child than a full-grown man. The shouting stopped abruptly and for a moment the armored men stood still, turning their great metallic heads toward their leader and then back again toward Komus.
"Well, well, gentlemen." Komus was playing one of his jester roles, using a high-pitched and shaky voice, as he often did when he was miming fear in order to flatter some member of the court who liked to think of himself as particularly fierce and alarming.
"Well, well, gentlemen. To what do I owe this honor? Is it a celebration? A festive pilgrimage, perhaps? Here, let me offer a toast to whatever rite we are observing. A goblet of wine perhaps, all around." He bowed low, gesturing toward the wine barrel, but when he stepped toward it, the black-helmeted knight's gloved hand shot out and seized him by the arm.
"Enough of your nonsense, fool." The voice still held a ringing echo, like the fading notes of a brass gong, but now in the silence the strange sounds clumped themselves into recognizable words—cold, threatening words that seemed to throb not only in Tymmon's ears but also in the pit of his stomach. "You are to come with us, fool. You and your son, also." The gleaming angular head swung slowly from side to side. "Where is he? Where is the boy?"
On the high ledge Tymmon sank lower, pressing his body back against the window bars.
"I am to come with you?" Komus was saying. "Now? At this hour? And in my least presentable nightshirt? Surely, you and your noble companions will be disgraced to be seen in such company. There must be some mistake."
Even with his head down and cradled in his arms Tymmon could hear his father's voice and knew that he was still acting. Pretending a friendly invitation to the intruders to share his amusement at the mistake someone had obviously made, or perhaps at the trick that was being played on some unsuspecting party.
"Good sirs, only stop and consider what you are doing. I am the court jester, gentlemen. Not a priest or surgeon whose services might indeed be needed at midnight in the event of illness or injury. But who could possibly require the presence of a fool at midnight—and in his nightshirt? By whose orders have you come for me, pray tell? Surely not by order of the king!"
"No, not on the old king's orders." Another was speaking now, a younger, higher voice than that of the black-helmeted leader. "But by command of—" There was a thud and the voice stopped with a grunt, as if someone had thumped him into silence.
"The boy." The leader's gonglike voice rang out again. "Where is he? Search for him, Nondum. And you, Wilfar. Find him. He must be here somewhere."
There followed the clatter of furniture overturned and cupboards ransacked, but the one large room held few hiding places and the search did not take long. When silence fell, the black-helmeted one spoke again and his voice was threatening.
"All right, fool. Tell us at once. Where is he? Where is the boy?" And when Komus answered, it was in a halting, jerking voice, as if he were being shaken as he spoke.
"I was trying to tell you"—the words came out in strange bursts and pauses—"but your men were making such a great noise dismantling my home that I could not make myself heard. The boy has gone. He has left Austerneve. Gone forth to seek his fortune in foreign lands."
There was a silent pause before Black Helmet answered. "I do not believe you. You are lying. He was seen in the courtyard only a day or so since, and he was not mentioned in the guard's reports on arrivals and departures."
"Aha," Komus said. "But the guards would not have seen him go. As you may know, sir, the guards at the small postern gate often retire to the guardhouse during the late hours of the night. And because he wanted to leave without great notice, not wishing to distress his friends or spend valuable time on lengthy farewells, my son timed his departure for those lonely hours." Komus's voice suddenly grew louder and more distinct. "Indeed, it was on my advice that he timed his departure in such a way. It is better, I advised him, to leave for a new life in a discreet and humble way, and wait until one returns, having found fame and fortune, to pass through the great gate of the city triumphantly, in the fullness of ...
There was a thud and a muffled moan, and then the black-snouted one's deep voice saying "Enough, fool. Spare us your gibbering. We have you and we will find the boy soon enough. And if we find you have lied to us—if we find that he is still here in the castle—that blow will seem to have been no more than the pat of a child."
The shuffle of feet and clanking of swords began again and then died away and a deep empty silence took its place. Only Tymmon remained in the northwest tower, lying facedown on the high ledge with his head wrapped in his trembling arms.CHAPTER 2
Time passed unnoted and uncounted—perhaps only a few endless minutes, but possibly much longer, before Tymmon so much as lifted his head. Lying stiff and still against the window bars, his bones and muscles no longer seemed to be under his control. Only his mind was in working order, or at least certainly in motion, racing frantically in all directions, returning again and again to the scene in the flame-lit room, with his father, barefoot and tousled, surrounded by the five armored men. Who were they? Where had they taken him? And why?
Why Komus? Why would armed men come for a harmless jester, as if he had done murder or committed treachery against his liege lord and country. And then there was the other why that kept returning even more insistently—why had the armed men wanted him, too? Wanted Tymmon, son of Komus, who was certainly blameless and not even grown to full manhood.
And then back to the scene in the torchlit room and Komus, playing the fool as always, chattering away to the huge armored men as if they had come on a friendly visit. Chattering about how they were making a mistake, which obviously wasn't true, and how Tymmon had left Austerneve to seek his fortune, which wasn't true either.
But then Tymmon suddenly realized that there had been a purpose behind that bit of chatter. Clearly Komus had said what he did in order to make the intruders think it was useless to search further for Tymmon. And then, at last, another bit of meaning behind Komus's babbling became apparent. The story about how Tymmon had left the castle by the postern gate in the early hours of the morning.
Excerpted from Song of the Gargoyle by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Copyright © 1991 Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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