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The Company of the Flaming Sword
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2015 Seamus
All rights reserved.
The Adventures Begin
Sunlight streamed through the tiny window and onto the face of the small girl as she slept. Its warmth stirred her from her slumber.
Aingeal stretched and yawned as she rubbed her sleepy eyes and sat up in her bed. Her gaze fell upon the empty chair that sat in front of the tiny wooden desk that was propped up against the bedroom wall.
Her heart sank as she thought sadly, Oh, it must have been a dream.
The tiny dragons, the lepre-thingies, and her marvellous emerald-green magical robe, with its gold embossed runes on one of the secret pockets, had all seemed so real.
'Aingeal.' The young girl's mother was standing at the bottom of her bed, holding up the robe. 'Where did you get this?'
'It wasn't a dream!' squealed Aingeal in delight as she bounced enthusiastically off her bed.
Her mother crossed her arms and wrinkled her brow. 'What are you talking about, child?'
Aingeal told her mother about how she and the other members of the Flaming Sword had met some adventurers from another world.
'And there was a wizard called Derry,' she said. 'It was Derry who gave me the robe. She gave Sevi an incredible flute-like instrument that makes a really pretty sound.'
The only thing Aingeal didn't tell her mother about was the gold dragon called Maggie. Maggie had told her that she had to look after Mithel, but that was their secret, and she wasn't to tell anyone.
Aingeal's mother laughed and shook her head. 'One day that imagination of yours is going to get you into a lot of trouble, my girl.'
'But, Mother, I can prove it.'
'I'll show you.'
Aingeal closed her eyes and concentrated as hard as she could. She had only read one page of the spell book Derry had given her, but she was sure that if she tried hard enough, she would be able to cast the spell.
Taking a long deep breath to steady herself, she uttered, 'Flammula.'
The young wizard's mother gasped in amazement as a small flame flickered and danced a few inches above Aingeal's open palm.
Sevi smiled as the heat from the bright summer sun beamed down on her face. She skipped out of the cherry- red wooden door, the only entrance to the small, whitewashed cottage that she shared with her mother, father and annoying little brother Arranz.
Sevi was seven years old and had been an only child until her brother was born four years prior. She was only now used to sharing her parents with her sibling.
She glanced behind her to make sure Arranz wasn't there. He had an annoying habit of following her everywhere she went.
Reassured that she was alone, she made her way over to her favourite chair, an old tree stump that her father had carved into a seat when a severe storm had damaged the great giant oak two years before. Sevi loved her tree- stump chair and would sit there for hours, watching people as they strolled past the drystone wall that marked the boundary of her family's home.
The budding little bard was always looking for inspiration for a song or poem. She had already written hundreds. She loved to write and make music, and today was going to be very special because she had a new musical instrument. She couldn't wait to play it. It was the only one in all of Caerleon, and she was going to write a song about dragons and little people.
For an hour she blew with earnest into her little whistle, trying to find the right tempo to match her memory of the flapping of the beautiful dragon's wings. She was lost in the tune when a familiar adult voice interrupted her.
'Good morning, Rozen,' replied the young girl, putting down her tin whistle. The royal bard was Sevi's hero.
'What is that wonderful instrument you have, and where did you get it?' the bard asked. 'You play it beautifully. You had me transfixed. I knew it was you from the first note I heard.'
Sevi blushed, turning scarlet out of pride and embarrassment at her mentor's praise.
'It's a tin whistle,' she explained. 'We took it as our prize after we defeated two dragons and a pair of lepre- thingies.'
'We? Who is we?'
'The Company of the Flaming Sword.'
'Ah, yes, the famous adventurers. How are Aingeal, Mithel and the others?'
Sevi leapt off her wooden seat and started jumping around, as if she was in a battle. She slashed the air with her invisible sword.
'It was a fearsome battle,' she enthused, 'but we are all unhurt. We let our adversaries leave with their lives after they paid their ransoms.'
'That is very honourable of you, Sevi.'
Rozen had heard about the strange visitors to Caerleon from King Cerdic and the mage Miranda. They had met one of the tiny dragons earlier the same day as the members of the Company of the Flaming Sword. Two of the king's men had followed the dragon and witnessed the exchange between the children, dragons and leprechauns. The fearsome battle had been the visitors playing along with the children's game, in the way a favourite uncle or aunt would.
'Are you ready for our duet at the king's party tonight?' Rozen asked.
'Oh yes! I have been practising every day,' Sevi replied.
'Good for you,' said the bard. 'Do you think you'd be able to play your tin whistle tonight?'
Sevi's eyes went wide with delight. 'Can I really?'
'I think it will be a real treat for the king. He will be the first person in Caerleon to hear a tin-whistle concert.'
Mithel sat in the palace library, staring out of the window at the bright sunny day.
I wish I was outside playing with my friends instead of being stuck studying in this cold, draughty old castle, he thought.
'Mithel, pay attention!' scolded the tutor, as she slapped her wooden ruler on the corner of the desk. 'You are not going to learn about the history of your glorious family if you don't stop your continual daydreaming.'
'But I don't care about my family history,' he moaned.
'You come from a line of kings that goes back over a thousand years.'
'But I'm never going to be a king. I'm only Cerdic's half cousin.'
The teacher sighed and shook her head. 'How many times do I have to tell you? You're King Cerdic's full cousin. Your father and his father were brothers. You're Cadan's half-brother, because, although you have the same father, you have different mothers.'
The young prince gave his most ferocious glare.
'It doesn't matter anyway,' he argued. 'There are dozens of other people before me in line for the throne, so I should be allowed to go outside and play with my friends.'
The teacher folded her arms. She was beginning to lose patience with her wayward student. 'There are only eleven people with a closer claim to the throne than you. Now, go and get the book that tells the story of King Edwin the Fourth. He was fifth in line to the throne and he became king. I want you to read the book for an hour, and then you can get ready for the King's birthday party.' She walked up to Mithel and scowled. 'And don't think you can slip into one of your daydreams, because I'm going to test you first thing in the morning.'
Mithel mumbled his displeasure as he stomped over to the huge wooden bookcase that held stories of every king of Caerleon, even the unfortunate King Coel the Third, also called Coel the Clumsy, who died falling out of his bed the morning after he became king.
After several minutes of searching the many shelves, he finally found the book he was looking for. He took the heavy leather-bound volume from the shelf, walked over to a desk as far away as possible from his teacher, and plonked himself in the chair, slamming the book on the table.
'Bor-ing,' he muttered, as he turned to the first page and started to read.
He absentmindedly thumbed through the yellowed pages, but stopped when he got to the fourth page.
'Whoa, what's this?' he whispered as he took out a loose piece of paper that had been carefully folded in half. He looked around the room to make sure his teacher wasn't watching him, and then unfolded the paper. To his absolute delight he discovered he was holding a map.
'Whoa,' he said again, as his eyes rested on the large red cross at the very centre of the map.CHAPTER 2
The Birthday Party
Sevi's eyes went wide in astonishment as she gazed around the magnificent room. It was massive. She had never seen such a grand room before. Crystal chandeliers hung from the high ceiling, casting a brilliant glow on those below. Heavily brocaded curtains adorned the large, wide windows, and huge round tables with bright white tablecloths were spaced at regular intervals on the marbled floor, each seating ten people on very fancy high-backed velvet chairs. One table in particular stood out above all the others: the table of King Cerdic and his closest friends.
Sevi and Rozen made their way over to the small stage where they were to perform. The King's table stood directly in front of it.
As Sevi took her tin whistle in hand and readied herself for her recital, she couldn't help but gaze at the grandly set table with its array of beautiful golden goblets, splendid fine china and delicious-looking meats, fruits and cheeses.
She lifted her tin whistle to her lips, about to give a little blow, when she noticed a small table, equally as decorated as the larger ones, tucked away in the furthest corner of the room. It was barely half the height of the others. Seated around it were her friends and fellow members of the Company of the Flaming Sword.
Sevi smiled as she spotted the empty seat where she would soon be sitting with her friends.
How exciting, she thought, as she placed the whistle to her lips and began to play.
Time was lost on the novice bard as she played tune after tune. She didn't even realise that Rozen had stopped accompanying her in the middle of the third song, or that the room had become completely quiet. The older minstrel had become as transfixed as everyone else by the talent of Sevi and her beautifully melodic musical instrument.
When Sevi's performance had finished, the King sprang to his feet, applauding with all his might.
'That was beautiful, truly beautiful,' he exclaimed in delight. 'What do you call that wonderful instrument? I have never seen or heard anything like it in my life.'
Suddenly aware that she was the focus of the whole room, Sevi turned a deep crimson colour.
'It's called a tin whistle,' she whispered. 'The lepre-thingies gave it to me. I think it is the only one in the whole of Caerleon.'
'Then we are lucky that it was given to such a talented bard,' King Cerdic replied. He waited a moment, and then declared, 'Sevi, I appoint you the first official Caerleon Bard in Waiting.'
'Wow, thank you, Your Majesty,' she said, curtseying as she spoke.
'No. Thank you for entertaining me on my birthday. Now go and join your friends at their special table and enjoy the party.'
'I told Jowanet to save you a piece of cake,' said Aingeal as soon as Sevi sat down. 'But she ate the last bit.'
'You mean she ate the last six pieces,' said Peder. 'Don't worry, Sevi, I hid a piece for you in my napkin.' He pulled a crumpled ball of paper from under the table and handed it to Sevi.
'Thanks, Peder, but I'm not really hungry. I'll just have some soup.'
'Well, if no one else wants it,' Jowanet said, grabbing it before anyone else could and shovelling it into her mouth.
The group watched in astonishment as their friend ate the cake in fewer than three bites.
'I don't know how you do that,' Mithel said, shaking his head. 'Oh, I'm bored. Is anyone else?'
'I am. I hate adult parties,' grumbled Perce. 'They don't even play Pin the Tail on the Dragon or Musical Thrones.'
'Shall I see if we can go and play in the library?' Mithel suggested, needing no encouragement.
'Oh yes,' exclaimed Aingeal. Like all would-be wizards, she loved books, and never turned down an opportunity to visit the royal library, the grandest in all Caerleon.
Peder's face crinkled in disgust. 'I don't want to go to a stupid, smelly old library. Let's go to the armoury, or, even better, the dungeons.'
'We don't have any dungeons,' said Mithel. 'And you know as well as I do we're not allowed to play in the armoury because it's too dangerous.'
'But no one will know.' Perce was as keen as Peder to get inside the weapons room. 'All the adults are at the party. We'll only look at the weapons. I promise we won't touch anything.'
'Just like the time you weren't touching anything when you nearly cut off my hand,' Sevi said, her hands on her hips. 'And everyone knows you can't play a tin whistle with only one hand.'
'It was only a scratch,' argued Peder.
'Yes, but if I hadn't put antiseptic on it, it could've got infected,' said Jowanet.
'And don't forget the bandaging you did as well,' added Aingeal.
'I'll be much better when I'm a priest and just use magic.'
'Well, it doesn't matter anyway,' said Mithel, 'because we're not going to the armoury. Just because there's a party, doesn't mean all the castle guards get the day off, and all the guards have been given strict orders not to let us anywhere near any real weapons.' Mithel had a mischievous grin on his face. 'But don't worry; I've got something really exciting to show you in the library.'
'What is it?' Aingeal asked eagerly.
'Follow me and you'll all find out.'CHAPTER 3
The Treasure Map
'You brought us here to show us a book?' Perce grumbled. 'Peder's right. This is going to be bor-ing.'
Mithel shook his head. 'What I want to show you is what's in the book.'
'Yep, like I said: bor-ing.'
'You could always go home, Perce,' Aingeal suggested, hands on hips as she glared at her friend.
'I can't,' Perce sulked. 'I have to stay here until my mother comes to pick me up.'
Aingeal smiled triumphantly. 'Then it looks like you're going to be reading the book, doesn't it?'
'I'm not going to show you a book or anything to do with a book,' Mithel said tetchily. 'I'm going to show you something that's hidden in the book.'
'That's stupid. You can't hide anything in a book. There's not enough room between the pages,' Peder said.
'Yes, you can,' said Sevi. 'I read a story once where someone cut out all the middle pages of a book and hid a large ruby inside.' Sevi looked at Mithel. 'Is it a ruby? That will keep us in sweets for a year!'
Mithel let out a deep sigh as he put his head in his hands and waited for the others to stop talking.
Finally, when they were all quiet, he said, 'Now that you've all finished, I'll show you what I've found.'
'No, it's not a ruby, Sevi,' he snapped. 'It's a map.'
Peder threw his hands in the air. 'Maps are more boring than books! I'm going to the armoury. The worst thing that can happen is I'll get caught and sent home.'
'It's a treasure map.'
Peder stopped and looked at Mithel. 'A treasure map? Well, that's different. Treasure maps aren't boring at all. Why didn't you just say that in the first place?'
'Because you all wouldn't stop talking, I couldn't get a word in. Now, gather round. Let's see if we can recognise anything on the map. We need a landmark so we can start our search.'
The children eagerly assembled around the table, all staring keenly at the map.
After several minutes of intense scrutiny, Peder finally broke the silence.
'I recognise this,' he said, pointing to the red cross.
'Really? What is it?' Mithel was excited. If Peder knew where the treasure was buried, they could go and discover it.
'It's an X,' he proudly stated. 'It comes before Y and after W in the alphabet.'
Mithel groaned as he slapped his hand to his forehead; Sevi giggled.
Aingeal glared at both of them. 'Yes, Peder, you're right, it is an X, but what Mithel meant is do any of us recognise any of the landmarks on the map?'
'Oh,' Peder replied, feeling a little silly. 'Well, that looks like a picture of a building.'
'Yes, but if only we knew which one.' Aingeal used her most encouraging voice.
'I think they're rooms, not buildings,' said Sevi. 'And most likely they're rooms in the palace.'
'What makes you think it's the palace?' asked Mithel.
'Because apart from people who live in palaces, who else has treasure to hide?' reasoned the young bard.
'Pirates?' offered Perce.
'There are no pirates in Caerleon,' said Sevi.
'Not now, but it could be a really old map.' Peder liked the idea of looking for a pirate's gold. It sounded thrilling.
'Why would a pirate hide his treasure map in a book in a palace library? That just sounds silly,' said Jowanet, who didn't want any part of finding a horrible pirate's ill-gotten gains.
'Maybe he lost the book and King Cerdic found it on one of his adventures?' suggested Perce.
'Or maybe the palace librarian found it in a second-hand book shop,' replied Peder.
'Royal librarians don't buy second-hand books,' scoffed Sevi.
'Most of these books are really old, so they must be second-hand.'
The young bard was about to argue when something about the map caught her eye.
'That's the music room!' she cried, pointing to an area on the map.
'It can't be,' Mithel said. He was the only other person in the group who had ever been in the music room.
'Yes, it is,' argued Sevi. 'Look at the shape. It's curved at the back like a semi-circle and the right wall is longer than the left one.'
'I agree it's the same shape, but there's no door on the back wall of the music room.'
Sevi looked at Mithel, then back at the map, and fell into an annoyed silence. As much as she wanted to argue with him, she knew he was right. There was no door at the back of the music room.
'The map does look very old,' said Aingeal. 'Maybe they've covered the door up?'
Sevi suddenly squealed in delight. 'No, they haven't – it's a secret door!'
Excerpted from The Company of the Flaming Sword by Seamus. Copyright © 2015 Seamus. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPart I – Buried Treasure,
Part II – The Key to Adventure,