Savaric doesn’t know what to think. Is he a warlock? Is he cursed? Everyone already looks at him strangely everywhere he goes. But all that changes when Savaric discovers that, under the right circumstances, he can become invisible! However, what starts out as a fun talent quickly goes downhill when things start to go missing and he’s always to blame. Even his own mother thinks he’s responsible for every cooling pie missing from a window ledge (Well, maybe one or two!).
That is, until the day when his gift leads him to a mysterious map written in a language he’s never seen, and a beautiful golden key.
In the whirlwind that follows, Savaric leaves the only home he’s ever known, and sets off alone to solve the mystery behind the map and key. He soon makes friends and enemies alike, plans a prison escape, digs for treasure more than once, and meets Kings, Queens, and fairies. Savaric may even help stop destabilizing battles for the throne and save the English kingdom!
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|Publisher:||Morgan James Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
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The Fifth Century in the Kingdom of Maximus Caesariensis
The wind shrieked — a shrill indignant sound — whipping the crystalline snow high into the air. Needles of snow seared the face of a man struggling through knee-deep drifts. He gasped for air as the icy wind blasted around him, taking his breath away and blinding him for a moment. He stopped abruptly, waiting for his vision to return, knowing that one small step in the wrong direction would mean certain death. The narrow precipice he walked on fell away hundreds of feet on either side. Further ahead in the distance, snow-robed mountain peaks sparkled in the bright cloudless day, and the sky shone a brilliant clear blue.
"Certain death in winter's thrall, probable death in summer's hall. There's no doubt to the truth of that part," the man muttered as he waited.
His vision restored, the swarthy man glanced down. Two inches from his fur-lined boots, granite boulders dropped away to a spectacular view of a green forested valley far below. Stepping back slowly from the edge, he turned and forged ahead, threading the needle of the icy ridge. Every few paces he threw his head back and checked his position, gauging the peaks around him, the position of the sun, and a landmark in the valley below. Eventually he stopped, turned to the valley, rechecked his position, and jumped over the edge.
Fifteen years ago ...
A scream shredded the air, piercing the ears of an older woman as she leaned over a fire. She winced, shrugging her shoulders a bit, then continued to stir a large cauldron. A bit of steaming liquid slopped over the side and sizzled into the flames.
"Yes, love, I know ye are in hurt like no other. It won't be long now," the older woman said over her shoulder. "This broth will be ready to strengthen ye."
Across the room of the tiny cottage, a pale young woman threw an infuriated look at the older woman. She seemed about to take breath to say something when another pain stabbed her thin frame. She shrieked again.
"Please, no more, please. By the gods, I can take no more," she groaned.
The older woman walked over to the bed. "The baby comes, child. Ye will have to take just a bit more. Bear down!" Not much later, the baby slid into her worn, capable hands. She took the newborn and walked over to the fire to clear its mouth and clean the small wrinkled body. When she finished, she kneeled by the fire and removed a small flask from within her robes. With her back to the bed, she cradled the child in her arms and tilted the flask toward the baby's mouth. Nothing poured from the flask, but the baby sputtered and coughed.
"Ah, yes, take it in, child," the older woman cooed quietly.
"Mother, is it well? What is it?"
"It is a boy, and he is well," she replied.
"Bring him to me, ye old witch. He cries for his mother," the young woman said angrily, leaning up on one elbow.
The older woman turned around, tucking the soft handwoven cloths around the tiny wailing body. "Be patient, Nicola," she said, her voice softer this time.
Nicola cradled her arms and braced to take the baby from her mother. Her eyes widened at the first sight of her child. She looked deep into his blue eyes for a few moments and then announced, "His name is Savaric."
The wind blew hard over the sharp edge of the mountain peak. Pockets of snow drifted up into the air, caught on the strong current. Granite sparkled with shards of ice embedded in its cracked surface. Suddenly a strange sound arose, the whistling of metal spinning through the air. A slender metal object landed on the granite ledge. A large golden key, its bow a writhing mass of scrolls and flourishes, glittered in the sunlight. A massive fur-lined glove pounded the boulder beside it. A man climbed up the mountain face to the ledge. He lifted himself up onto the ledge and sat on the icy ground, his chest heaving with the exertion. After recovering for a few minutes, he stood and began the slow, inching journey down to the valley floor.
As he got closer to the village, he looked over his shoulder and scanned the path ahead, watching for signs of being followed or observed by anyone. He saw no one. He stopped near a long dead tree, bleached white by the sun but still standing upright like a ghostly sentinel by the side of the path. He stood for a few long minutes listening and watching for any signs of life or movement. Satisfied that he remained alone, he walked up a small rise to the white tree and then around it, marking off twenty paces to another tree with a shallow hollow at the base of its two main limbs. Looking around again, he pulled the golden key from his pocket and nestled it under the leaves in the hollow. He reached down and grabbed more handfuls of leaves from the forest floor and stuffed them into the hollow. He moved his head from side to side, making sure that no glint of gold flashed through the leaves. He turned back to the path, listening closely again before he stepped back onto it, then ambled on down the path toward the village.
A short time later, the leaves in the hollow began to tremble and shake, then fly into the air. The key rose out of the hollow and stood suspended in midair. It paused there for a moment, as if considering its fate. Finally, it plunged toward the ground — and disappeared completely.
The swarthy man beat his meaty fist on the bar.
"Thomas," he bellowed, "bring me some warm ale, meat, and bread. Make it quick. I'm chilled to the bone."
"Warin, you gone off your head. It's summertime, and the sun shines hot today. Have you already had your fill of ale?" the man behind the bar replied, as if talking to a small child.
Heads turned to watch the exchange from the dark recesses of the hut. Smoke and dust swirled, caught in a single shaft of light that broke through a tear in the oilcloth covering the one small window. Two flickering lanterns feebly cast pools of light onto the scatter of rough tables and chairs.
"I'm indeed frosty, and it's none business of yours as to why, so bring it before I make some meat of you," Warin shouted back.
Thomas shrugged and nodded to a woman propped lazily against the wall at the end of the bar. She pushed off the wall with her foot and disappeared behind a doorway partially covered with a tattered cloth. She reemerged with a plate in hand, dropping it insolently on the table in front of him.
Warin tore into the food dropped carelessly in front of him, sucking greedily at the bones, slopping up the juices on the plate with the chunk of hard crusty bread. When he had ravaged the contents of the plate and drunk most of the warm ale, he sat back and belched loudly.
A man walked over to him, carrying another two vessels filled with warm ale. He slapped them onto the table and said, "Are you warm now, you mutton head?"
"I am. What is it to you?" Warin growled.
"Aw, Warin. Simmer down. There's no need to be so testy. I'm just bein' friendly to ya."
"Sorry, don't want people in my affairs. Especially with strangers about."
"What kind of secret affairs could you have? You've lived in this village all your life and never left it. Nobody ever leaves this place!" the man replied.
"I said I don't want people in my affairs," Warin spat, his voice low, and glancing around.
"Ay, ay. We'll go about it your way. Drink up. Here's a toast. To the sun shining warm on all of us!"
Hours later, Warin and his friend remained draped over the table, consuming tankards of ale. "Aaaand, the more I drink the less good I can ..." The whole room sang together raucously. The songs and drinking continued long into the night. When most of the party had gone home, Warin and his friend still leaned over the table. Warin's lips, loosened by the ale, stage whispered.
"No, you don't understand, I have the key already. It's hidden, you see. But I don't know what to do with the map."
"Map! What kind of map? Is it a treasure map?"
"Shhh, you fool. I can't read it. I don't know the places on it."
"Then how did you find the key if you couldn't read the map?"
"Someone had translated it a long time ago. We passed their words down from father to son for many grandfathers, but I figured out the riddle. It took me months of pondering and puzzling. Then I went to look for it and I found it," Warin replied proudly, beating his fist on the table and making the tankards vibrate.
"But where did it come from?"
"I don't know; someone hid it in my cottage. You know me and my kin have lived on our land and in that cottage for many grandfathers. It must have been put there by one of them."
"By the moon and the stars, Warin. You have a treasure map. You'll be as rich as a king."
"Aye, as rich as a king. If only I can find it."
A small whirlwind of dust rose up from the floor. The door to the tavern opened and quickly closed again.
"Strange," Thomas said, peering toward the window. "There is no wind to move that door about." He looked over to the barmaid with eyebrows raised. She shrugged her shoulders, bored.
The next afternoon, after a long morning spent sleeping off the excess of ale from the night before, Warin walked back to the path leading up the valley to his hiding spot. He glanced around him and quickly stepped off the path at the dead tree and walked to the hollow tree. Plunging his large paw into the hollow, he felt around through the leaves for the key, expecting at any moment to meet its cold hard surface. His expression turned to fear and then desperation as he found nothing. He threw the dry leaves to the ground, emptying out the hollow, scraping at the insides, gaining only splinters and dirt under his nails.
"No, no, no. It must be here!" he said aloud.
He stretched up and looked inside, but the hollow truly lay empty. Throwing himself to the ground, he searched on his hands and knees, using his hands to brush all the leaves away from the base of the tree. Nothing. He struggled to his feet and checked to see if any other hollow trees stood within the twenty-pace radius of the sentinel tree. Still nothing. Finally, he realized that the key had disappeared. He leaned against the hollow tree and slid down into a crumpled heap at its base, completely deflated at the loss.
"How could this happen? No one saw me come here," he agonized out loud. "No one even knows of this tree, this place, except creatures of the forest. Who?" he questioned. "No, no. Without the key, I'll never open the treasure even if I can find it."
Warin lapsed into a silence, his knees drawn up and his head held in his hands. He groaned, agonized, and sat still for a long time.
Suddenly, he jumped to his feet and ran as fast as his thick legs could take him. Down the small hill, down the path, through the village, Warin ran harder than he had since he was a boy. He stopped just beyond the village and leaned against a rough wooden fence. Breathing hard, he struggled to get air, reaching for his side as a massive pain wracked it.
"Warin, where are ye going in such a hurry?" a wrinkled old woman with stringy white hair called to him through the window of the house behind the fence. "Did the fear of God finally catch up with ye?" she cackled, amused at her own joke.
"Oh, no," he threw back. "Far worse than that. Thomas wants his coins for my ale last night." He tried to smile, but the stitch in his side turned the smile into a grimace.
The woman squealed with laughter, sounding like a door in need of oil squeaking horribly as it opened. "Eeee he he, yes, Thomas," she replied.
Warin turned away and walked quickly up the village road. "No need to draw any more attention to yourself, fool."
When he got to his own cottage, he turned off the path and went inside, not bothering to pull the door shut behind him. He strode across the packed dirt floor to a rickety ladder that led to the attic. After climbing up the creaking ladder, he stepped into the attic, staying hunched over as he went to the eaves and pulled a leather cylinder out of the roof thatching. Prying the wooden lid off with his fingers, he looked into the cylinder. The brown reedy papyrus still lay coiled there.
Warin exhaled, relief flooding his body. "At least if I cannot have it, no one else can either. Without the map, they have nothing too." He stuffed the cylinder back into the thatch and turned to go back down the ladder. He walked towards the door and back out again. A minute after the door shut, it cracked open again and a small puff of wind raised the dirt off the floor into a tiny whirlwind.CHAPTER 2
Eleven years ago ...
In a small green meadow, in the middle of an old forest of great grandfather trees, a woman played with a small child. This pleasant round hollow in the ground, covered with grasses waving in the slight summer breeze, remained their secret place, a quiet refuge that few other villagers ever came to. The child sifted through the grasses that stood taller than him, the perfect place for hide-and-seek.
The young boy with black hair searched close to where the woman lay in the grass. She lay still, watching him pass her, then stood up and lunged at him. "Ah, I caught you. You came too close to my lair, and now you are my prey!" she screeched menacingly.
The boy screamed in delight, struggling to wriggle out of her arms. "No, you'll never capture me, Na ... Black Wolf. I'm too quick for you!"
The two wrestled, her grip tightening and his movements more thrashing, until they both fell to the ground and the boy spilled out of her arms. They rolled in the grass, laughing hard at each other.
"I cannot believe you didn't see me. You walked right past," she choked out, tucking her blonde and white hair back up into its bun.
"But I escaped and that's all that matters," the boy said back to her, smiling. After a few minutes their laughter quieted down, and they lay peacefully on the grass looking at the clouds overhead.
"Look, that one looks like a hog's head, Nana."
A few minutes later, he continued, "And that one looks —"
"Hush," she said. "Listen."
The boy stopped moving and listened carefully. "I hear water. I'm thirsty; let's get a drink."
The woman smiled serenely. "What else do you hear, child?"
"But, Nana, I'm thirsty. Let's find the water and get a drink."
"Soon enough. First tell me what else you hear."
The boy lay still for a few seconds, his head cocked to the side.
"Close your eyes, Savaric," she said.
"I hear a falcon's cry from high up in the sky. I hear the water flowing over the rocks. I hear the wind through the trees."
"Yes, yes," she replied, her head nodding. She watched his face carefully, waiting. "The wind is blowing its breath through the trees."
Savaric's ice-blue eyes flashed open. "Nana, I can't see the water and I can't see the wind, and there are no trees nearby."
Nana sat up, finally gratified. "Come, let me show you." She took his hand and walked to the center of the meadow.
"Stand by me, right here." She put her hands up as if playing patty-cake in the air. "You can feel the tree here."
Kneeling down to the ground, she felt around on the earth with her hands near the splashing sounds of water over rock.
"The brook is right here. I can feel its coolness running over my hands."
"Nana, you are playing tricks on me. How did you get the sound of wind and water to come here?"
"It's not a trick. The sounds are here because the tree and the brook are here; you just cannot see them. You try it. You will feel them just as I have felt them."
"You're just trying to get back at me for winning at hide-and-seek, aren't you?"
"No, of course not. Just try it, Savaric. By the gods, you'll feel it if you just try it." She looked up at him from the ground with her ice-blue eyes flashing, exasperated at his resistance.
"Very well. But if this is a trick ..." Savaric slowly sidled over to the place where she had raised her hands into the air and duplicated the patting motion she had made.
In an instant, like the sudden clarity from a flash of light when a dark, heavy curtain is thrown back from a large window, a twenty-foot pine tree popped into view. Savaric screamed and fell backwards to the ground, scrambling to get away from the sight. As soon as his hands left the tree, the tree disappeared again, but the sound of the wind through its branches still sighed around them.
Nana sat on the ground with her hands propped behind her, looking as if she had been pushed down by an unseen force. Her mouth had dropped open into an ugly O. They sat frozen on the ground, breathing hard as they stared at the spot where the tree had appeared. Slowly they turned their heads toward each other, each reeling in shock.
"What was that, Nana? Where did that vision of a tree come from?"
"It's not a vision, Savaric. It's a real tree."
"But where is it now?"
"It's still there. You only have to touch it to see it again," she said slowly.
"I'm not touching it again. This is a terrible place. An evil place."
"Don't be frightened, child. After all, it's only a tree. And a brook. Come over here and touch the brook."
Savaric crab-walked away some more. "No, it will poison me. No!"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Secret Key of Pythagorum"
Copyright © 2018 Michele Angello.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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