Welcome to LEGENDTOPIA, where fantasy meets reality in a new series from the author of JOSHUA DREAD! Two kidsKara, a girl from our world, and Prince Fred, a royal boy from the kingdom of Heldstonejoin forces to save Urth.
Have you ever been on a school trip that went totally, epically wrong? That’s what happens when Kara visits Legendtopia, a fantasy-theme restaurant with her class. She’s just trying to retrieve her prized necklace when she stumbles through a small wooden door . . . and into a magical world where dragons breathe fire and an evil sorceress is out to get her!
Luckily, Prince Fred is ready to be at Kara’s service. He’s desperate for someone in the kingdom of Heldstone to recognize his bravery—and he knows exactly how to handle ogres and elves. But he’s clueless when it comes to Urth, a mystical and thrilling place with cars and cell phones. That’s exactly where he ends up when he follows Kara back through the door. And he’s not the only one after Kara. . . .
Magic is spreading. A dark kingdom is rising. And the fate of not one, but two worlds rests in Kara’s and Fred’s hands.
About the Author
LEE BACON is the author of the Legendtopia and Joshua Dread series. He grew up in Texas. For two years he lived in Germany, where he encountered many castles and zero dragons. He now lives in New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
Do you know the legend?
There is a legend of another world. A world of magic and wonder. A world where carriages travel without horses and winged machines fly higher than any bird. A world where all the information in all the libraries fits in the palm of your hand. A world where the light of a thousand candles can be ignited with the flick of a single switch.
A world known as Urth.
According to the legend, a doorway separates my world from Urth. A small wooden door that stands half as tall as any normal door.
But if you attempt to open the door, it refuses to budge. Go ahead and give it another tug. It won’t make the slightest difference. Because, you see, the peculiar miniature door can be opened only by someone from the other side. Someone from Urth.
Over the years, there have been countless attempts to open the door. The strongest men in the kingdom pulled it with all their might. The most powerful wizards cast their most potent spells.
None of it ever worked.
For as long as anyone can remember, the door has remained closed. Locked. A mystery.
Until the day a girl named Kara walked through and changed my life forever.
This is going to be epic.
At least, that’s Marcy’s opinion. She’s next to me on the bus, bouncing up and down so excitedly that the entire seat shakes.
“Epic, epic, epic!” she squeals.
Today our sixth-grade English class is on its way to this fantasy-theme restaurant in town. Legendtopia. I’ve never been to the place before. To be honest, fantasy isn’t really my thing. Marcy, on the other hand . . . She’s always reading books with elves and unicorns on the covers. Her last birthday party was Hobbit themed. She spent the entire afternoon wearing fake furry feet.
For the past week, our class has been studying folklore and old myths. The lesson had something to do with heroic quests and magical creatures. Like I said, I’m not that big on fantasy. I tuned out until Mrs. Olyphant said two words that totally caught my attention:
I may not care much about the subject matter, but anything’s better than sitting in class.
“I’ve been begging my parents to take me to Legendtopia for, like, ever!” Marcy grins, showing off a mouthful of braces. “But for some reason, we’ve never gone.”
“Probably ’cause it’s totally lame,” says Trevor Fitzgerald from the seat in front of us.
Marcy stops bouncing and shoots Trevor a nasty glare. “How do you know?”
“I went there last summer,” Trevor says. “Major letdown.”
But Marcy’s not having any of it. “I hear there’s a dragon. And ogres that really talk.” She turns to me. “Back me up, Kara? You’re excited, right?”
I hesitate. “I’m excited we won’t have to eat cafeteria food.”
This is an understatement. Yesterday my french fries came with a side of fungus.
But my comment’s not exactly a huge show of support for Marcy. And now her enthusiasm’s fading. She droops in her seat, arms crossed.
Even though Marcy can go a little crazy about all this fantasy stuff, I don’t like seeing her disappointed. We met in the first grade. Our dance class was staging the annual holiday show Snow White and the Seven Reindeer. She played a chipmunk. I was a dancing bush. We’ve been friends ever since.
I place a hand on her shoulder. “So Legendtopia has a dragon?”
She nods again. “They talk.”
“Sounds pretty epic to me.”
The smile reappears on Marcy’s face. “That’s what I’m saying.”
And just like that, she’s bouncing up and down again.
While the bus rumbles across town, I look out the window and twirl my owl necklace between my fingers. It’s a habit. Some people chew their nails or bite their hair. I have my necklace. The little silver owl dangles from its chain. Sunlight traces the edges of its pointy beak and perfectly round eyes.
It was a gift from my dad. The last thing he ever gave me.
The owl slips out of my fingers when the bus lurches around a corner. Suddenly, Legendtopia appears in the window. Take it from me, the place is impossible to miss. It’s supposed to look like an old European castle. Except I doubt many European castles are located in shopping centers, sandwiched between a bank and Crazy Earl’s Electronics Extravaganza.
Our class exits the bus and follows Mrs. Olyphant toward the restaurant. Fake stone turrets loom crookedly over the parking lot. The door is actually a small-scale drawbridge over a goldfish pond.
In the entryway, we’re greeted by a suit of armor. I jump when the suit extends its arms and begins to speak. “Wruppmmh tulmphhia wurrph lurrgghh compph lippphh.”
“Excuse me?” Mrs. Olyphant says.
The person in the armor raises a creaky glove and lifts away the faceplate. Inside the helmet is a pimply teenager. He repeats himself, and this time his words come out more clearly
“Welcome to Legendtopia, where legends come to life.”
The guy leads us into the restaurant. It’s hard to hear exactly what he’s sayinghis armor makes most of the noise.
“Follow me, ladies and lords, into another world.” CLANK! SQUEEEEK! “A world of enchantment.” BONK! “And mystery.” CLUUUNK! “Where fantasy surrounds you.” SQUONK! CLACK! “Your tables are this way.”
We follow the knight through an arched doorway lined with dusty plastic vines. On the way, we pass a sign that reads:
Marcy elbows Trevor. “See. Told you there were ogres.”
“Ooh, I’m real scared.”
“Just wait,” Marcy says. “You don’t wanna mess with ogres.”
Their bickering comes to a halt when a hidden door squeaks open. Out pops an ogre. Even Marcy would have to admit the thing’s not exactly terrifying. Not with wires sticking out of its ears and cotton stuffing poking from ripped seams.
But Marcy did at least get one thing right. The ogre does talk.
“GRRR! I WILL EAT YOUR BONES!” growls the ogre. Its electronic voice is so garbled, it sounds more like a malfunctioning toaster.
We keep moving. Marcy casts a disappointed look over her shoulder. “What kind of ogre was that?”
“A lame ogre!” Trevor grins triumphantly. “Just like I said.”
“Whatever.” I grab Marcy’s arm and guide her away from Trevor. “Don’t listen to him.”
“He’s kinda right,” Marcy grumbles.
“Yeah, well . . . I bet the rest of Legendtopia is gonna be better.”
But as I glance around the restaurant, I’m not so sure. Everything looks completely fake. The royal throne is made of Styrofoam. The unicorn is a stuffed horse with a horn duct-taped to its head.
Legendtopia is epic, all right.
But Marcy hasn’t quite given up on the place yet. She perks up when a savage roar booms through the corridor.
Up ahead, the knight clanks to a stop. “What is that noise I hear? It sounds like . . . the dragon!”
Marcy shoots me an excited grin. “I knew there’d be a dragon.”
We both flinch at the sound of another roar. Smoke wafts into the room. The thrill of the unknown hangs heavily in the air. The atmosphere of dangerous enchantment. This must be what Marcy enjoys about old myths and fantasy stories. The feeling that magic is real. That anything’s possible.
A dark shape emerges from within the smoke. Even though I know it’s fake, my heart beats a little faster. I grip Marcy’s elbow a little tighter. The dark form snakes its way closer and closer through the mist, untilfinallywe get a glimpse of the thing. . . .
And it doesn’t look much like a dragon at all.
More like an oversized chicken.
Marcy stamps her foot. “That’s not a dragon.”
The only person in our group who seems afraid of the big purple chicken is the pimply knight. He draws his plastic sword and waves it around.
“Quick, let us flee this place!” SQUEEEEK! HOINK! “Before the dragon devours us all!”
“Yeah, let’s escape the horrifying chicken puppet,” Trevor jeers as we shuffle away.
For Marcy’s sake, I’m hoping the show’s going to improve once we get to our long wooden table. No luck there. As soon as we’re seated, a lady in a pointy hat and robe barges forward.
“Greetings and salutations!” she announces. “My name is Gerlaxia, and I am the most magical witch in all the land! I’ll be your waitress today!”
The lady’s hat is stained with mustard. Tennis shoes poke out from under her robe.
“Prepare yourselves for a display of stupendous sorcery and enthralling enchantment! But firstallow me to fetch your menus.”
Gerlaxia twirls her hands and a bunch of menus come tumbling out of her sleeve.
“Oops,” the witch mumbles.
After scooping up the menus, she begins circling our table, taking drink orders. She gets to me last. As Gerlaxia leans over, the brim of her pointy hat snags my owl necklace. When she spins to leave, the chain snaps. The necklace breaks loose, stuck in her hat.
Gerlaxia struts away, unaware that she’s taking my silver owl with her.
Panic fills my voice. “My necklace!”
I try to get up from the table, but I’m wedged in. Watching the fake witch disappear from view, I feel like I just lost the last tiny bit of my dad that I had left.
“I’m sure she’ll be right back,” Marcy says.
“But what if it falls out!” I twist sideways, but I’m still unable to squeeze out of my seat. “I have to get it back!”
Marcy’s expression sharpens. “Then you know what you need to do, right?” The lights of Legendtopia gleam in her eyes. “You have to rescue your necklace from the evil witch! It’s, like, an epic quest!”
Marcy joins me in shoving our bench away from the table. And this time, the two of us manage to push hard enough for me to climb out.
“May you prevail in your quest!” Marcy calls after me.
I hurry past another animatronic ogre (this one wearing an XXL T-shirt that reads i had a legendary time at legendtopia). Then I catch sight of a purple robe and matching hat. The waitress pushes through a door marked magical employees only. I race to follow her, but the door’s being guarded by an elf. And by “elf,” I mean a guy with fake pointy ears.
“You can’t go in there,” the elf says in a bored voice.
“I just need to get something from our waitress,” I explain. “She walked through this door like two seconds ago. Remember? The witch?”
The elf points at the sign. “Sorry. Magical employees only.”
I clench my hands into fists. Gerlaxia is getting away. And so is my necklace.
All of a sudden, the door swings open and the knight emerges. Turning his attention to the elf, he says, “Some lady just spilled nachos on the unicorn. Manager wants you to scrub it off.”
I don’t hear the rest of their conversation. Because as the door swings closed, I slip inside. I seem to be in some kind of backstage area. There are shelves of costumes and wigs. A pile of fake vines. Papier-mâché fairies dangle from the ceiling, suspended by fishing line.
I bolt into the next room. The kitchen. Crouching low, I scurry past sizzling pans and smoking ovens. The door opens behind me. The elf and knight stumble into the kitchen.
I dart behind a humongous silver box. On the door is a sign that reads:
It’s definitely the biggest fridge I’ve ever seen. Big enough to hide in. I tug open the door and slip through the opening. The inside looks like a big metal closet, with empty shelves and the remains of old food scattered around. I guess it’s been unplugged for a long time, because it isn’t cold at all.
And something else I notice about the walk-in refrigerator: the entire space smells like spoiled vegetables.
But it looks like I’ll have to put up with the smell. At least long enough to avoid getting caught by the knight and the elf.
I pull the door the rest of the way closed. Everything goes pitch-black.
In the darkness, my imagination conjures the owl necklace. Big silver eyes and little pointed beak. I remember the night Dad gave it to me. I was eight. At the time, it seemed strange that he was giving me a present. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas or any other special occasion. When I pointed this out to Dad, he pulled the jewelry away.
“Maybe you’re right,” he said. His accent made the words come out almost musical. Every sentence sounded like it might break into a tango party. “I should probably wait.”
He pretended to stick the necklace back into his pocket.
“Noooo!” I squealed, reaching for it.
Dad smiled. He had the kind of smile that made all the lightbulbs in the room glow a little brighter. “All right, hija. Why don’t you try it on?”
As he clasped the necklace around my neck, I could smell a mixture of oil and charred wires. Dad was an electrician. When he got home from work, he would sometimes drop his toolbox on the living room floor and put on a show for the family. With the twist of a screwdriver, he could make a circuit board hum a Frank Sinatra tune. Or he might cause magnets to twirl and float above our rug. Pressing two wires together, he’d create sparks that turned our coffee table into a miniature Fourth of July fireworks display.
These shows usually went on either until bedtime or until the couch caught on firewhichever came first.
But on the night Dad gave me the necklace, there was no toolbox, and there were no tricks. Just the little silver owl dangling from a chain.
“It’s beautiful,” I said.
“So are you, hija.” Dad smiled. The lights glowed so bright, I thought they might explode. “If you keep this necklace with you, it’ll bring you closer to me.”
I didn’t know it then, but it was the last time I would ever see him. The next day, Dad went off to work. And never came back.
That was more than three years ago. I’ve worn the owl necklace ever since. There are moments when I can almost feel its little metal wings fluttering against my skin. When I hold it tightly and imagine that my dad is still with me.
And now it could be anywhere. Dropped into someone’s soup or snagged on a unicorn’s horn. Accidentally tossed into the trash or kicked under a toilet in the restroom.
I can’t let that happen. I have to get out of this refrigerator.
As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I notice the light.
A faint, flickering glow from the far end of the walk-in refrigerator.
Maybe it’s another way out.