I’m whispering because we’re crawling through a canyon and there’s nothing but knee-high grass blocking us from sight. Papa is shielding us, but his magic can’t render us invisible. There’s a fort ahead. We think it’s the Heart of Power, where our scribe is being kept.
Green light streams from Papa’s hand releasing an army of glowing ants. They march toward a crumbling curtain wall and pour through a crack scanning everything in their path.
“What do you see?” I whisper in Papa’s good ear.
“Leaves Fall into a Great Book statue. There’s an inscription, but parts of it are worn away.”
“It should say ‘A Book-Lover’s Dream.’ Can you see anything else?”
A loud clang startles me. I glance over my shoulder at Uncle Miren. Teenagers are so loud. Beyond my annoyed uncle, a billboard advertising Fantasy Bargain Books stands–just like in the clues our scribe left.
We’re so close. Soon we’ll find our scribe and take back our book. A smile melts my annoyance at my uncle, and I lean into Papa. Of course, he has no idea why we’re here or what we’re looking for.
The truth fizzes inside me. One day it’ll burst out, and I’ll tell Papa the books are about him and me. But not now. I turn my head into his shoulder and muffle the words trying to spill out.
“Something’s happening. A section of stonework retracted and a silver bubble’s rising out of it. There’s writing on its side. I only recognize a handful of letters.” Papa swallows audibly, embarrassed by his illiteracy. He can only recognize the letters in his, mine and Uncle Miren’s names. That leaves nineteen letters unknown to him.
“Because you won’t let me teach you to read,” said Uncle Miren and there’s a promise in his barbed reply.
Papa’s face reddens, and I shoot an angry glare at Uncle Miren. I love Papa just the way he is. I hug Papa so he knows that.
“Then just read off what you can, and I’ll decipher the rest.”
I don’t like Uncle Miren’s know-it-all tone, but Papa returns my embrace with extra magical interest distracting me. So I let it go.
“It says _ ARA_ _ _ _ ES_ A _ E and under that, there’s a banner–”
The bubble, and its strange message rise above the curtain wall. There are ropes draped over its top. Are they used for climbing? My spirits rise at the thought. It looks nice and bouncy.
“I see it. Damn it. There are tears in the banner. I can’t make out parts of it. ‘Come to the SP_C_L_T_V_ F_ _ ST at the #SP_C_ S_MM_T
where CL_ _N _A_T_S_ R_A_S _N_I_H_E_ Y_U_ H_R_Z_N_S.”
“What does that mean?”
When Uncle Miren doesn’t answer right away, I smile at his vexation.
“I don’t know.”
“Look,” Papa points, but I can’t see anything from this vantage except a silver curve rising behind the curtain wall. “They’re bundling someone into a giant basket.”
Papa’s magic streaks across the canyon and jogs back up his arm as the silver balloon rises into the sky. Indeed, a basket dangles from the silver ovoid, and my heart sinks as I watch it sail away. I know my scribe’s on aboard. But I hold onto the flickering hope that our story is hidden somewhere in that castle as I push to my feet and run.
Help us unscramble the message on the hot air balloon using the clues below then join us on 10/7 at our first ever Facebook event!
Our scribe will not be present since she was kidnapped, but we’ll be there from 11-11:30 pm Eastern Standard Time at the Reader Extravaganza Event. Come hang out with us! Win prizes! Go here to https://www.facebook.com/events/289101528256167/ and click ‘going’ to attend. We’ll see you there.
Have you decoded the message?
“[…] _ ARA_ _ _ _ ES_ A _ E […] Come to the SP_C_L_T_V_ F_ _ ST
at the SP_C_ S_MM_T where CL_ _N _A_T_S_ R_A_S
_N_I_H_E_ Y_U_ H_R_Z_N_S.”
Until next time, dear reader
Stay tuned as we journey into the castle next week to search for Curse Breaker: Faceted. So help us find it, please?
Ran, “The Good Son” of Sarn
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