Read Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief Online
Authors: Gabrielle Kent
by Gabrielle Kent:
Alfie Bloom and the Secrets
of Hexbridge Castle
Chapter 1: Raiders From the Oak
Chapter 3: The Greatest Thief Who Ever Lived
Chapter 8: The Queen's Lieutenant
Chapter 11: The Siege of Hexbridge Castle
Chapter 12: A Trip Through Time
Chapter 14: The Tower and the Crown
Chapter 15: Ashford's Question
Chapter 16: Out of the Wreckage
Raiders from the Oak
Alfie rolled on to his back and smiled up at the stars as the wind whipped through his hair and flapped his pyjamas. He patted the fur beneath him â flying bearskin was the only way to travel.
“You're quiet tonight,” said a deep voice by his ear. “Everything OK?”
“Just enjoying the peace, Artan.” Alfie reached back and scratched the bear's head. The whole rug rippled beneath him as Artan growled with pleasure.
The moonlight glinted off Lake Archelon, highlighting the silhouette of Hexbridge Castle sitting high atop one of the hills overlooking the
Alfie still couldn't believe he lived there. His dad was fast asleep inside and so was his best friend Amy Siu, who was staying for the Easter holidays while her gran recovered from a bad bout of flu. His cousins Madeleine and Robin had left a few hours ago after spending the whole weekend at the castle.
Alfie loved having so many people around, especially after his former life in a gloomy basement flat with only his dad and his cat, Galileo, for company. Inheriting a magnificent castle from Orin Hopcraft, the last of the great druids, had changed his life completely, but he still enjoyed his own company sometimes. Where better to be alone than in the clouds?
It seemed like years since Christmas, when his head teachers, Murkle and Snitch, had turned into a dragon and tried to eat him. The ancient magic Orin had hidden inside Alfie had saved the day by stripping away their magic, but the feeling of power it had given him as he used it was almost as terrifying as the dragon. He shivered despite the warm night; he still had nightmares about it sometimes.
Tonight's dream had been the worst yet. He had turned into a dragon and eaten his family. It felt
real that he could have sworn his arms were still green and scaly when he woke up. He'd taken to the skies before going back to sleep. A peaceful flight usually cleared his mind, but this time the nightmare was hard to shake. He touched the talisman that always hung around his neck. Feeling it there, keeping the magic inside him hidden and controlled, helped him to feel safe.
“OK, take us home, Artan.”
“Homeward-bound,” rumbled the bear. “Hold on tight!”
Alfie buried his fingers into Artan's thick fur as the bear turned in a big swooping arc over Wyrmwald House school before soaring back towards the castle. Alfie was enjoying school life since Murkle and Snitch had been arrested. He hoped they'd be locked up for a long time somewhere very far away. His favourite teacher, Miss Reynard, had taken the role of headmistress. Alfie was pleased about that. She seemed the least likely person to turn into a ferocious dragon.
They glided over Archelon Lake towards the gentle roar of the river that flowed around the castle before cascading over the cliff behind it as twin waterfalls. As the bear sailed over the castle walls, the oak tree in the cobbled half of the
caught Alfie's eye. It was lit with a blue light that flickered out almost as soon as he noticed it. Was he imagining things? He clamped his hand over Artan's muzzle and pointed down. Artan nodded and quietly floated over to land behind the stone battlements.
Popping his head up to peer through one of the gaps in the stonework, Alfie could just make out a shadowy figure moving around near the tree. The drawbridge was still up, so how had someone managed to get in? The figure moved out from under the tree and headed towards the castle doors. Alfie leapt to his feet, but just as he opened his mouth to yell down at the intruder, he recognized the figure as Ashford, the butler. He dropped back down behind the stonework, not wanting to explain what he was doing out in the middle of the night. He watched the butler tuck something small into his pocket before heading into the castle. Alfie wondered what he was doing up so late.
Waiting until Ashford had closed the door, Alfie gave Artan a pat and they swept up to his open bedroom window. He still hadn't told any of the adults about the bear. He was half afraid his dad would want to run experiments to figure out how he could talk and fly. Only Amy, Madeleine and
knew about him, and they were under strict instructions to keep their lips zipped or else lose their flying privileges.
The bear glided silently through the sleeping castle. Alfie hopped off outside the castle library and Artan floated back to his cosy little room in the southern tower. Alfie was still wide awake after his nightmare. He grabbed a few of his favourite comics from the library to read in bed, hoping they would help to replace the dragon in his dreams.
Passing the staircase, Alfie heard an unfamiliar voice echoing up from the ground floor. He froze and listened. It was melodic yet harsh. Every word carried menace.
“You were a fool to return. Did you think we would forget what you stole from us?”
Slowly, Alfie lay down on the carpet and peered through the banisters into the hall below. There were four people down there in the dark. Three of them were very tall and wore long tunics with some form of leather waistcoat. They were holding on to the arms of the shortest figure, who was struggling to free himself from them.
“Tell us where it is.”
The sharp-faced owner of the voice stood almost nose-to-nose with their captive, who answered
“The one place you'll never be able to take it from. Muninn and Bone's vaults.”
The second voice Alfie knew well. Ashford. The castle was being burgled and the robbers were threatening their butler! Alfie didn't know what to do. He could wake his dad and Amy, but two twelve-year-olds, a butler and a skinny inventor would be no match for the fierce-looking men in the hall.
There was a grunt from Ashford as one of the men drove a fist into his ribs. Looking around frantically, Alfie spotted a large sword held by a suit of armour. He considered grabbing it and charging down the stairs but doubted he'd even be able to lift it high enough to threaten the thieves.
“You will take us there.”
“No one can travel there without one of their coaches,” replied Ashford.
“Then call one.”
The man was holding a knife to Ashford's neck. Alfie's instincts took over. He leapt to his feet and threw his full weight against the suit of armour, sending the whole thing crashing down the stairs.
“Hey, you! What are you doing? Get out of here!” he yelled at the top of his voice as the armour crashed and banged its way down the stairs. He
up one of the shoulder pieces and clashed it against the wall, hoping that if he made enough noise the men would think there was a whole army upstairs.
“Alfie, duck!” shouted Ashford.
Alfie dropped to the floor, and not a second too soon. Three arrows thudded into the tapestry behind him in quick succession.
“What's going on?” shouted Alfie's dad, dashing out of his bedroom at the same time as Amy emerged from hers in tartan pyjamas, brandishing her baseball bat.
“What is it, Al? Are you OK?”
Alfie crouched behind the stone balustrade, making himself as small as possible as the two of them raced down the corridor towards him. “Stay where you are!” he shouted as he kicked out at another suit of armour, sending it toppling downstairs after the first. “They're firing arrows!”
“Who, Alfie? Who's down there?” called his dad over the clanging and clattering of metal.
“I don't know,” mouthed Alfie. He pulled his arms in tight just as another arrow chipped the stone near his elbow.
The last piece of armour crashed down into the hall below. Alfie risked a peek. A fight had broken
Ashford had wrestled himself free and was spinning furiously, aiming punches and kicks at the intruders with pinpoint accuracy.
Where had he learnt to fight like that?
Alfie wondered. One of the men was on the floor near the bottom of the stairs; the other two were circling warily, waiting for a chance to attack.
“What do we do?” whispered Amy, wriggling across the floor towards Alfie on her elbows.
Alfie was wondering that himself. His dad seemed to have a plan, and had grabbed a shield and spear from the walls as he crawled over to join them.
“Get to one of the bedrooms and lock the door until you hear my voice,” he hissed over the yells and crashing sounds from below.
Alfie stared at his dad. He had never seen him look so fierce and determined. “No way! You can't go down there alone. I'm not leaving you.”
“You don't have a choice. Get to your room. I'll help Ashford.” Before Alfie could argue there was a yell from Amy. She had leapt to her feet and was shouting down over the banisters.