In this final story of Warren’s thrilling adventures, the young manager is adjusting to the demands of running a floating hotel and is planning his thirteenth birthday party. But then disaster strikes! The Warren Hotel is shipwrecked on a strange island, and Sketchy is kidnapped!
Warren and his crew of friends set off on a daring rescue mission across the high seas, where they meet a delightful new cast of characters that includes wizened pirates, a sea witch, and a talking clam. As Warren pursues his many-tentacled friend’s kidnappers, he will learn the truth of Sketchy’s mysterious origins—as well as one final secret of his beloved Warren Hotel.
Once again, readers can expect mesmerizing illustrations on every page, along with plenty of riddles, puzzles, and adventure galore!
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Chapter I. In Which a Party Is Planned
Dark clouds bubbled on the horizon, bluish black and heavy with rain. Warren the 13th lowered his telescope and licked his finger, holding it up to the air. The wind was blowing southeast, and the Warren Hotel was sailing northward. The storm wouldn’t trouble them. Warren sighed in relief. Today was his thirteenth birthday, and he didn’t want bad weather to get in the way of the celebrations he’d planned.
He was currently perched in the crow’s nest that he’d installed on the roof of his wondrous and world-famous hotel. Not only was the ancient establishment, which his family had owned for generations, able to walk upon tall retractable mechanical legs, but it had recently revealed its ability to transform into a seaworthy vessel as well. Right now, the blue ocean waves were calm, and the hotel bobbed along at a pleasant pace. Warren was eager to know where they’d end up next.
The resident rooftop crows grumbled from the nearby chimney stack, no doubt jealous that Warren was sitting in what should rightfully be their “nest.”
Warren sighed. “I told you, this isn’t a real crow’s nest! It’s where crew members scout for land or danger.”
The crows were not convinced. They eyed him flintily, their feathers ruffling. Warren climbed out and slid down the wooden pole, landing with a thump on the rickety roof tiles. He always felt like Jacques Rustyboots when he did that. The legendary pirate was the lead character in his favorite novels; he was also Warren’s biggest idol (besides his late father, Warren the 12th, of course).
Warren had always wanted to be like Jacques Rustyboots, exploring the wideopen seas, and now he had gotten his wish. Well, minus the pirating part. Warren didn’t want to steal or pillage; he just wanted his guests to be comfortable.
But right now, guests were one thing his hotel was short on. Ever since escaping from the evil Malwoods, the hotel-turned-boat had been drifting across the open waters but hadn’t yet hit land, nor had it come across another boat. Warren was eager to arrive someplace he could open the doors and welcome new business. In the meantime, he had other tasks to accomplish—such as preparing for his upcoming birthday party. Now that he was certain the weather would cooperate, he was ready to dispense the invitations.
Glancing up, Warren noticed the cantankerous crows flocking to the vacated lookout basket, where they’d no doubt leave a mess of feathers and droppings. He smiled. The crows were his guests, too, and he was used to cleaning up after them. Suddenly, a shiny object dropped down from the basket; Warren caught it in his hand. It was a battered doubloon, rusted and chipped on the edges.
“A birthday gift, for me?” Warren said, running his fingers over its ridges. One side depicted a bearded king, and the other a grand pirate galleon. This was a real pirate doubloon, just like the one his old importerexporter friend Captain Grayishwhitishbeard had given him, only this one was much worse for wear.
“Where did you get this?” Warren called up to the crows. The birds cackled mysteriously.
Warren knew the crows had a habit of stealing shiny objects, but how had they managed to get their claws on a pirate coin? Could the hotel be closer to land than he thought?
Warren pocketed the doubloon and opened the hatch that led into his attic room. With practiced skill, he dropped into the tiny space. Since becoming the manager of his family’s hotel, Warren could have moved into any of the larger, more opulent rooms. But he loved his humble bedroom, and it had taken him ages to decorate it just the way he liked, with dozens of his sketches pinned across the walls.
Warren reached into a drawer of his bedside table and pulled out the stack of invitations he had been working on earlier that day. They were written on heavy cream paper and fastened with an elegant wax seal bearing the letter “W.” It was time to hand them out.
First, he went to the guest observatory on the eighth floor, where Beatrice, the hotel’s resident perfumier and protectress, spent most of her time. He could hear the sweet trill of her violin echoing down the hall, which was lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, giving guests a panoramic 360-degree view. The room was filled with an assortment of comfortable chairs and ottomans, as well as a silver cart stocked with hot tea and cucumber sandwiches.
Beatrice was in her usual spot playing a sad tune. Rose tattoos covered every inch of exposed skin, each one representing an evil witch she had captured in one of her magical perfume bottles. Beatrice’s voice had been stolen by a witch long ago, so she spoke not a word, instead communicating via picture cards. Warren was getting better at deciphering her messages, but no one was as fluent in pictographs as Beatrice’s daughter, Petula.
Beatrice paused as Warren approached, then she reached into her pocket. She produced a card depicting a festive cake and showed it to Warren. He knew this was her way of saying “Happy birthday.”
“Thanks, Beatrice!” Warren gave her one of his handmade invitations. “My birthday party is tonight in the ballroom. It’s pirate themed. I hope you can make it!”
“Ahem!” sounded a nearby voice.
Warren spun around to see Henry J. Vanderbelly seated in one of the armchairs, writing in a notebook. He was a newspaper reporter for the Fauntleroy Times who had found himself stranded aboard the hotel after their escape from the Malwoods. He didn’t seem to mind too much, however.
“Oh, Mr. Vanderbelly!” Warren said, scurrying over. “You’re invited, too, of course!”
He presented the large man with an invitation, which he accepted with a grin. “Ah, most excellent. I shall look forward to writing an article all about it!”
“Or you could just enjoy the party and not write anything at all,” Warren suggested.
“Nonsense! My readers are waiting with bated breath to hear word of my adventures at sea. This is just the sort of content they crave!”
Warren shrugged. Nothing could dissuade Mr. Vanderbelly from his journalistic tendencies.
Next, Warren went down to the fourth floor, which was home to the library that also served as the office of Mr. Friggs, Warren’s tutor. As usual, Warren had to scale a mountain of clutter and stacked books just to reach the desk, where Mr. Friggs was frowning over a series of faded maps.
“Oh, hello, my boy,” Mr. Friggs said absently. “Is it lunchtime already?”
“We already had lunch, remember?” Warren asked. “An hour ago?”
“Oh! Oh, yes, that we did.” Mr. Friggs finally lifted his gaze from the maps and shook his head a little, as if to loosen the cobwebs in his brain.
“Are you O.K., Mr. Friggs?”
Mr. Friggs tugged at the long white mutton chops that framed the sides of his wizened face. He had a habit of doing that whenever he was anxious.
“I don’t like this course we’re on,” Mr. Friggs said, gesturing to his maps. He was the hotel’s official navigator and cartographer, responsible for guiding the hotel from point A to point B. Which was a lot easier to do when the hotel was on land and in familiar surroundings.
“But we’re not on any course,” Warren said. “We’re just sort of . . . drifting.”
“Ah, that’s the problem! We have no idea where we’ll end up.”
“But that’s what makes it fun!”
Mr. Friggs let out a huff. “Fun until we sail into hostile territory or are attacked by pirates! There are a lot of dangers out at sea, and we’ve now gone beyond the reach of my maps. You know what that means . . . ”
“We’re in uncharted territory!” they said in unison, though Warren’s tone was filled with wonder and Mr. Friggs’s was filled with dread.
“And as for today being your thirteenth birthday, well . . . ” Mr. Friggs trailed off. “Never mind.”
Warren wasn’t sure what Mr. Friggs was insinuating, but he was grateful for the change of topic.
“Speaking of which, I’m having a birthday party tonight. In the ballroom,” Warren said, handing out his invitation. “I know you don’t usually like to leave the library, but—”
"I wouldn't miss it!" Mr. Friggs smiled as he ruffled Warren’s golden hair.
Warren gave a little bow and left the library before Mr. Friggs could bring up his worries again.
Now, where was Petula? His friend was usually using her magical portals to teleport all over the hotel as she helped with the daily chores, making it hard to pin her down. Warren decided to head to the basement and the kitchens, where he knew he’d find Chef Bunion and Sketchy, Warren’s loyal friend.
As usual, the kitchens were bursting with the clatter of pots and pans and the scent of tasty spices and fresh-baked bread. Chef and his assistant were already hard at work preparing that evening’s supper.
“Don’t look!” Chef exclaimed as Warren entered. Sketchy let out a shrill whistle. Warren quickly covered his eyes with the invitations.
There was a furious chopping noise to Warren’s right, and the sound of eggs cracking to his left, followed by the clang of the oven door. Even with his eyes clamped shut, Warren could envision the familiar scene. Chef would be dicing ingredients with the dexterity and speed he had learned in the circus many years ago, and Sketchy would be using its eight tentacles to perform simultaneous tasks with dizzying skill.
“I have invitations to give you for my birthday party tonight!” Warren said.
“We’ll get them later. Now, shoo!” Chef said, not unkindly.
Warren yelped as he felt one of Sketchy’s rubbery tentacles wrap around his torso and shove him out the door.
“All right, I’m leaving. You can let go now!” Warren said, and Sketchy dumped him unceremoniously outside the kitchen. The creature pulled the door shut behind it with an admonishing whistle, though not before snatching the invitations out of Warren’s hands.
Warren smiled. Well, whatever birthday meal his friends had planned, it smelled delicious.