Read Flight of the Phoenix Online

Authors: R. L. LaFevers

Tags: #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Fiction, #General, #Legends, #Myths, #Magic, #Fables, #Ages 9-12 Fiction, #Animals, #Mythical, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #Action & Adventure - General, #Action & Adventure, #Children's Books, #Social Issues, #Family, #People & Places, #Adventure and Adventurers, #Parents, #Children: Grades 3-4, #Animals - Mythical, #Girls & Women, #Readers, #Boys & Men, #Emotions & Feelings, #Middle East, #Orphans & Foster Homes, #Animals - Birds, #Birds, #Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, #Phoenix (Mythical bird), #Readers - Chapter Books, #Chapter Books, #People & Places - Middle East

Flight of the Phoenix (8 page)

BOOK: Flight of the Phoenix
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"Yes, he does."

"Actually," Nate said, speaking for the first time, "I'm here to offer a trade."

"A trade?"

"Yes." He wiped his sweaty palms on his trousers and cleared his throat.

128

[ Image: Nate, Aunt Phil and the five men.]

129

"In, um, appreciation for your hospitality toward my aunt. I've come to offer a gift for her return."

"I am listening," the sheik said.

His heart beating fast, Nate slipped his hand into his pack and closed it around the smooth, perfect phoenix egg. He dreaded giving it away, but he had nothing else to offer.

"Well? What do you have?" the sheik asked, growing impatient.

Nate pulled the egg out. "I have a rare phoeni--" Aunt Phil gasped. "Nate! No!"

The sheik stared at it, his face expressionless. "You offer me a rock?"

"No, no. It isn't a rock. This is a phoenix egg! The phoenix gave it to me after it emerged from the ashes."

The sheik's face grew stern. "The phoenix is a creature of myth and belongs to the old tales. Your rock is of no value to me. Now, go sit with your aunt while we decide what must be done about you."

Nate couldn't believe his ears--couldn't they tell this was no ordinary rock? He opened his mouth to argue, but Khalid caught his eye. "Go," he said. "Arguing will do you no good."

130

With the bitter taste of failure in his mouth, Nate went to sit beside Aunt Phil.

"May I see it?" Aunt Phil asked, her eyes bright with excitement.

"Sure." Nate pulled the lustrous egg out and handed it to her. At least she understood how special it was.

"Extraordinary," she murmured, turning it over in her hands. She looked up at Nate, her eyes shining. "Excellent work."

"Well, thanks. But fat lot of good it does us."

"Don't worry." She handed the egg back to him. "We'll think of some--"

There was a mad howl, and then something crashed into Nate's shoulder.

Greasle!
he thought as the gremlin raced past him on all fours. Nate hoped these men were as afraid of jinn as Fadia had been.

131

***

Chapter Eighteen

Greasle
barely spared Nate a glance as she ran by him, headed straight for the door.

"What was that?" the sheik asked.

"A jinni?" Nate offered hopefully. The men got to their feet and followed the gremlin out of the tent. Nate and Aunt Phil hurried after them.

"What is your gremlin up to now?" Aunt Phil whispered.

"Don't worry. It's all part of our plan." But Greasle wasn't acting the least bit jinnilike. In fact, she was acting more

132

like a hound on the scent of a tasty bone. She was still on all fours, sniffing at the ground. After a moment, she began digging furiously.

Warily, the Bedouin gathered round, pointing and whispering. Nate pushed to the front of the crowd.

Greasle was rolling in a small trickle of thick, dark liquid. She paused to slurp up a big gulp, then writhed with happiness. At Nate's approach, she looked up and grinned. "Much better than nasty dates," she said gleefully.

Nate knelt and dipped his fingers into the puddle. He sniffed, then rubbed them together. He looked up at Aunt Phil. "It's just like that stuff you had in the barrel for your airplane," he said.

[Image: Greasle.]

133

Aunt Phil knelt and tested the puddle herself. "You're right, Nate. It is oil."

Nate thought a moment. "You said it was valuable. Will they trade it for our freedom?"

Aunt Phil's eyes widened in surprise. "They just might." She raised her voice and called out to the sheik, "Our gremlin--er, jinni--has given you a gift of great value. She has discovered oil."

"Oil?" the sheik repeated. "What is this oil? It is not water and we cannot drink it. Of what value can it be?"

Aunt Phil scooped up a handful of the oozing black liquid and let it dribble from her fingers. "This is what will power the future," she said. "Airplanes, motorcars, trucks, tanks--all need this substance in order to run. Men will pay much for it."

The sheik narrowed his eyes. "You mean the machines of war. Like the Turks and British used to fight."

Aunt Phil looked sad for a moment. "Yes. Your first taste of our technology was in war. But there are many other uses for such machines. Oil may not have value for the Bedouin, but others will pay dearly for it. It will bring you much in trade."

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The sheik studied Greasle, who now lay in an oily stupor, her little belly bulging. Then he looked back at Nate. "Very well. We will take this in trade for your aunt. But come," he said to Aunt Phil. "Tell me more of this oil and fuel and technology. I want to understand your view of the future. Then we will return your camels to you and see you on your way."

Aunt Phil looked over her shoulder at Nate. "Brilliant!" she said.

***

Hours later, Nate and Aunt Phil were escorted to the oasis. They rode behind two Bedouin, leading their own camels by ropes.

Once they had bid goodbye to the Bedouin, Aunt Phil looked toward the palm tree, her face forlorn. "I can't believe I missed the phoenix. Was it wonderful?" she asked.

Nate stared at the tree, remembering. "It was better than wonderful."

After another moment, Aunt Phil sighed and draped her arm across Nate's shoulders. It felt odd--heavy, but nice,

135

too. "Well, there's no doubt about it. You're an official Fludd now. The only one of us to see a phoenix rebirth since 1428."

Nate stood up a little taller and tried to look official.

"You'll have to tell me every detail of what happened so I can record it in
The Book of Beasts."

The Book of Beasts!
Nate had almost forgotten. "Aunt Phil, when you were at the Bedouin camp, did you see a man with red hair? Sort of the same color as yours? He was short and round and wore black robes."

"No," Aunt Phil said, suddenly alert. "Why?"

Nate told her of the attempt to steal
The Book of Beasts.
When he was done, she began to pace. "What? What's wrong?" he asked.

"Describe him to me again," she said.

Nate did. When he was done, he asked, "Do you have any idea who it might have been?"

Aunt Phil stopped pacing and sighed. "I have my suspicions. There are very few who even know the book exists. If I am right, it's very bad news indeed." Her face cleared. "But excellent work in keeping it safe, Nate."

136

"Greasle helped," he pointed out.

Aunt Phil glanced at the sleeping gremlin. "I must say, she's proven far more useful than I ever imagined."

As Aunt Phil turned away, Greasle opened one eye and winked at Nate. He winked back.

"Now," Aunt Phil said, "let's get on back to the plane. We've loads to do and little time to do it." She lifted her saddle, grunting with the effort, and headed toward her camel.

Nate followed behind. "Really?" Nate asked. "What's next?"

"Well, not only do we need to put out some inquiries about this would-be thief of yours, but I want to locate your Miss Lumpton. I have a few questions I'd like to ask her."

That would be interesting, Nate thought. He could hardly imagine the two of them in the same room.

"And as if that weren't enough," she continued, "we need to make a quick trip to visit the wyverns. It's time for the wyvern hatchlings to begin flying soon, and I don't want the chickens and goats to begin disappearing at an alarming rate. Here." She reached into her pocket and tossed something at Nate.

137

138

[I mage: A compass.]

Startled, Nate managed to catch it. He turned it round and round in his hands. It was a compass, just like hers. The engraved dodo on the cover looked so real, Nate half expected him to talk.

"The Fludd family compass," Aunt Phil explained. "It's high time your formal training began. We've loads of catching up to do."

Nate slipped the compass into his pocket. He couldn't wait to get back to Aunt Phil's house and show that stuffy old dodo just how wrong he'd been.

The End

139

[ Blank Page]

140

NATHANIEL FLUDD'S GUIDE TO

PEOPLE, PLACES, AND THINGS

airship
Italia:
a semirigid airship, or dirigible, designed by Umberto Nobile that crashed in the Arctic Circle on May 23, 1928

Bedouin
: nomadic tribes that live in the deserts of the Middle East

Budapest
: the capital of Hungary, one of the early stops on the airmail routes from England

cardinal
points
: the four primary directions on a compass (north, south, east, and west)

cartographer
: a mapmaker

compass
: a navigational instrument that indicates direction with its magnetic needle always pointing north

compass
rose
: a small drawing on a map that shows the orientation of the map

141

dodo
bird
: a large, flightless bird thought extinct since the mid-seventeenth century
the
Great
War
: the global war (now often called World War I) that took place from 1914 to 1918. It was one of the largest wars in history and involved many of the world's major powers.

gremlin
: a small, greasy creature first discovered by Great War pilots when it fouled their engines and mechanical workings

Mungo
Fludd
: the first Fludd of record. In 1422, he set out to retrace the steps of Marco Polo so that he could map the world. He ended up traveling the globe for seventeen years (often called the Great Wandering). He was the first European to see the birth of a phoenix in 1428.

oasis
: a spring or water source found in a desert

137

142

oil
: a thick, heavy substance for motor engines and other industrial uses

ordinal
points
: the four compound directions on a compass (northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest)

phoenix
: a mythical bird that is able to regenerate itself every five hundred years and is said to possess many magical properties

Sopwith
Platypus
: a lesser-known biplane created during the Great War by the Sopwith Aviation Company as part of the Sopwith Zoo that is able to land on both water and land

Spitsbergen
: an island in the Arctic Circle and the last known location of Horatio and Adele Fludd

Tidy
Sum
: a large amount of money

Turks
: members of the Turkish state also known as the Ottoman Empire prior to the Great War

***

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