Authors: Alex Cliff
THE SNARLING BEAST
Books by Alex Cliff
THE SNARLING BEAST
ILLUSTRATED BY LEO HARTAS
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London
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Text copyright Â© Alex Cliff, 2007
Illustrations copyright Â© Leo Hartas, 2007
All rights reserved
The moral right of the author and illustrator has been asserted
For Lindsey Heaven, my wonderful editor,
and for Philippa Milnes-Smith, my equally
wonderful agent, for not laughing at me
(well, OK, not too much!) when I first suggested
I'd like to write a series about superpowersâ¦
a hawk swooping towards a ruined castle on a hill. With a savage scream, the bird flies into the castle keep. As it lands beside the one tower that is still standing, its body starts to stretch and grow. Within seconds it has become a woman. She is twice as tall as an ordinary woman and a cloak of brown-grey feathers swirls from her
shoulders. Her black eyes flash with angry fire.
She claps her hands together and a square of stones on the inner wall of the tower crumbles.
As the dust clears, a tall man with long hair and a noble face looks out
through the gap. He is trapped inside the tower's thick walls. This is the superhero Hercules. He meets the evil goddess's angry gaze without flinching. âAnother day dawns, Juno,' he says. âBy the end of today I will have my sixth superpower back.'
âNo!' Juno hisses.
âYes,' Hercules snaps back. âFor five days now you have set the two human boys a task to do each day. Each day they have won a superpower back for me. Soon I will have all my powers back and you will not be able to keep me as your prisoner any longer. I will break free from these walls!' He thumps the inside of the tower with both fists.
âNever!' Juno exclaims. âI will kill the boys first.'
âYou cannot!' Hercules' voice raps out. âYou made a deal with them, Juno. The boys are allowed to choose one of my superpowers each day to help them complete a task you set. If they succeed the superpower returns to me. You know as well as I, that although the
boys can be hurt or killed while carrying out the task, you must
injure them directly. You cannot break the rules, Juno. Gods play fair when they deal with humans.'
âYou dare to tell
what gods do?' Juno cries in outrage.
âYes,' Hercules declares.
They stare at each other, superhero and evil goddess. They have been enemies for centuries.
âIt is true!' Juno spits. âI might not be able to kill the boys myself while we have a deal, but I can make the task they have to complete as dangerous as I like.' Her eyes light up suddenly. â
dangerous in fact.'
Hercules frowns. âWhat do you mean?'
âYou'll find out soon enough!' Juno's
cruel mouth curves into a smile. âAnd so will they!' She claps her hands. There is a crash of thunder and the stones re-form over Hercules, trapping him once again in his magical prison. âWho's powerless now, Hercules?' Juno breathes. A flash of lightning strikes down. As it hits the ground, the goddess transforms into a hawk again.
Beating her powerful wings, she speeds away across the dawn-streaked sky.
STONE, PAPER, SCISSORS
Max Hayward and Finlay Yates were facing each other in the lounge in Max's house. Their hands were balled into fists. âAfter three,' Max said, looking at Finlay.
Max counted them in. âOne, twoâ¦
Their fists moved lightning fast and they shouted at the same time.
âScissors!' said Finlay, his fingers making a scissors shape.
âPaper!' said Max, his hand flattening.
âI win!' Finlay exclaimed triumphantly.
âScissors cut paper. Let's do it again.
âScissors!' he shouted.
âStone!' Max shouted at the same time, keeping his fingers curled into a ball. âI win! Stone blunts scissors!'
âBest of three?' Finlay suggested.
Max nodded. This time Finlay called out âpaper' and Max went for stone again.
âI win this time,' Finlay said. âPaper wraps stone.' He grabbed Max's hand, and made his voice sound all creepy. âI am the evil hand of paper. I will destroy you!' He changed to a dalek's voice
. âI will exterminate!' He grabbed Max round the neck.
Max ducked and grabbed Finlay's legs behind the knees.
âOof !' Finlay exclaimed as he lost his balance. He yanked Max's ankles as he fell, and Max crashed down with him. They wrestled for a moment and then Finlay suddenly pulled away, his thick blonde hair sticking up.
âHey, I've had an idea! Let's change the game. How about cannonball, sword and net instead of stone, scissors, paper?'
Max realized what he was getting at. âYeah! So a sword could cut a net but be blown up by a cannonball?' he said.
Finlay nodded. âAnd a net could catch a cannonball. What d'you reckon?'
âIt's cool!' Max replied. âBetter than
the real game. I've never got that bit about paper beating stone by wrapping round it, but a net
actually catch a cannonball. What hand shapes should we use?'
They were just working them out, when Max's dad came into the room. âHi, you two. Got any plans for today?'
âWe're going to the castle again,' Max replied, glancing at the clock above the mantelpiece. It was eight-thirty. âWe should go soon,' he said to Finlay.
âYou've been at the castle every day this half-term,' Mr Hayward said curiously. âWhat are you doing there?'
Finlay wondered what Mr Hayward would say if they told him the truth â that they were helping the superhero Hercules escape from his castle prison.
âJust stuff,' Max replied vaguely.
âOh, well, so long as you're having fun and not getting into any trouble,' said Mr Hayward.
âOh, no trouble, Dad,' Max answered quickly.
, Finlay thought, picturing the Man-Eating Birds they had killed the day before. Max still had a wound on his arm from where one of the birds had slashed at him with its razor-sharp beak. Every day, either Finlay or Max seemed to end up with a scar from facing Juno's challenges.