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Authors: Jessica Day George

Thursdays with the Crown

BOOK: Thursdays with the Crown
5.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Fondly dedicated to
Michelle Nagler and Caroline Abbey,
Expert Griffin Trainers

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Acknowledgments

A Note on the Author

Also by Jessica Day George

Chapter 1

“You are not leaving me behind,” Celie repeated.

Rolf and Lilah exchanged looks, and Celie could see her brother and sister preparing to side against her. She braced herself.

“Someone needs to stay here with Pogue,” Lilah said in a wheedling voice.

“But you could stay with Pogue,” Celie retorted. “You don't want to get dirty hiking around the forest, do you?”

She knew that she had Lilah there. Lilah was already upset that they'd had to sleep on the hard stone floor of this run-down hatching tower last night. They didn't have any water for drinking, let alone washing, and Lilah was looking as mussed as anyone had ever seen her.

Lilah ran her fingers through her hair, caught them on a snarl, and straightened. “I … I … Listen to me, Celie,” she said. “We don't know what's out there. We don't know
if we're alone, or if there are people right outside this tower, and if those people are dangerous. We don't know what animals are out there.”

“You think that I don't know that?” Celie looked at her sister in disbelief. Did Lilah think she was an infant? Not only that, this was the third time at least that they'd had this argument.

Here they were, in the Glorious Arkower, the land where her beloved Castle had been built, and they wanted her to sit. And wait. And listen to Pogue snore. Her feet positively itched with the need to get out of this cramped tower and explore — but no, it was not allowed!

Celie paced around the edges of the tower, which didn't take long, while Rolf and Lilah watched her. They were both working up more reasons for her to stay behind while they explored; she could see the wheels turning in both their brains.

It was true that someone needed to watch their friend Pogue. He had hit his head during the confusion that had brought them from Sleyne, which fortunately had been the only injury. They'd thought the Castle was trying to shake itself to pieces, or that there was a mighty storm caught in its walls, and then suddenly the tower that Celie, Pogue, Rolf, and her griffin Rufus were taking shelter in had been ripped free and brought here.

Celie and Rolf had looked out of the wide arched windows, across an expanse of trees, and seen another tower, with Lilah and Prince Lulath waving at them frantically from the windows. Celie had flown Rufus across to collect
them, and they'd all spent a long, cold night on the floor, with an icy wind blowing through the open window arches, carrying strange noises and scents with it. In the morning, Rolf had announced that he and Lilah alone would explore the surrounding forest while Celie kept an eye on Pogue, and Lulath looked for water.

“Now Celie,” Rolf began, “you are the youngest, so it makes more sense.” He seemed pleased with this logic, but Celie was not.

Celie honestly couldn't believe that they were doing this to her. Celie was the one the Castle loved best. She was the one who had raised and trained a griffin. She was the one who had found the broken piece of the Eye and restored it to its rightful place in the Heart of the Castle, what her family had always called the holiday feasting hall. She'd hoped it would help the Castle, which had been acting strangely for months: adding new rooms, refusing to take away unused ones, even bringing a tower with a live griffin egg inside. But once the Eye was in place, the Castle had nearly flown to bits, and brought them to the Glorious Arkower, presumably to find the other piece of the Eye, which Celie had proposed the night before, and which they had all agreed was the right thing to do. And now she was the one being told to stay safe, sit quietly, and make sure that Pogue was still breathing.

He snored again.

He was breathing.

The truth was that Celie was terrified of the Glorious Arkower. She'd never even been outside of Sleyne … not
to Grath or Vhervhine or any of their neighboring countries, and now here she was in a whole new world! A world where she and her siblings and their friends were strangers, with no clue how to find food or water … or a way home. A world where something, some threat, had made the Castle gather up every last room, corridor, and stable left in the Glorious Arkower, and plop them down in Sleyne.

What could threaten a castle? What could threaten
the
Castle?

But when Celie was frightened of something, she liked to face it head-on. She did not like to sit in a cold stone room and worry, but that is exactly what they wanted her to do. And to cap it all off, when Lulath had gone searching for water, Rufus had gone with him. Her own griffin had left her behind.

“I need to go with you,” Celie said to Rolf, trying to sound capable, and not whiny. “We need to find the missing piece of the Eye so we can go home and heal the Castle.”

“We can look for it,” Lilah said immediately.

“What if Lulath and Rufus have gotten into trouble?” Celie countered. “A young griffin, wandering around with … Lulath?” She raised her eyebrows.

“There might be griffins everywhere here,” Lilah said. “It could be that they've found a village and are getting help.” Her face brightened as she hit on this idea. “Yes, that's undoubtedly what's happened.”

“And if they were in trouble, I'm sure Rufus would be able to fly straight back here to you,” Rolf said. “They're fine.”

“Makes sense,” Pogue suddenly called out, stopping mid-snore. Then he rolled over and went back to sleep.

Lilah and Celie exchanged worried looks over Pogue's head, but Rolf shrugged.

“Lulath said he'd do that,” Rolf reminded them.

Lulath claimed that Pogue suffered from a cracked skull.

“He is needing the sleep, but not too much, and the quiet, of that a lot,” Lulath had told them with his thick Grathian accent. “We must be waking him at that quarter of each hour, and watching to see that the breathing is clear. But of a certainty the swaying when standing and the sick of the stomach and hurting of head will soon be gone! And he is probably talking with strange words and perhaps sleeping while talking for a time, too.”

That had been a great relief, as Lilah had been certain that Pogue was dying. Celie was relieved, too. She hadn't thought that Pogue was dying, not really, but she had thought that his injuries might be permanent.

Pogue let out another snore and Celie paced the tower again. It was a hatching tower, with just one circular room with a sloping floor and a trapdoor that led down a narrow staircase to a small door at the base of the tower. It had no furnishings and no coverings on the wide windows, but they were fortunate that, unlike the tower where Rufus had hatched, this one had a roof. The worst part about the tower was that it appeared to be dead: there was no friendly hum, no feeling of warmth coming from these stones, for all that
this tower had been a part of the Castle in Sleyne barely a day before.

Celie stopped pacing and stared out again, looking for Lulath and Rufus, but all she saw were trees. Strange trees, with very straight, slim trunks, branches so evenly placed that they looked man-made, and dark-green needles instead of leaves. Away to the right there was something that might have been a lake or a plain, and beyond that, three sharply pointed mountains rose against a faintly purple sky. At the foot of the tower was a damaged expanse of stones that had probably been the rear courtyard of the Castle five hundred years ago, and there was a broken-down stable and the other hatching tower. It was all very horrible and bleak.

In the distance was a haze of smoke that looked as though it might be from a largish village or even a town, but Rolf had deemed it too far away to reach. They would have to hack their way through miles of forest to get there, so they had decided that the two of them were going to strike out toward the lake and hope that there was a farm or house hidden in the forest closer to the ruins.

And it seemed that by the two of them, Rolf meant himself and Lilah.

Rolf looked at Celie. His face was stern, and he looked as he had a year ago, when he'd briefly been the king in their father's place. Lilah folded her arms, looking very much like their mother.

Celie sighed and sagged against the window frame.

They both kissed her, then went down the trapdoor and out of the tower, leaving her alone with Pogue.

Celie had longed all her life for a truly grand adventure, but now that she was having one she found it quite lacking. Lacking in food. Lacking in blankets. Lacking in adventure, really.

After what she thought was about a quarter of an hour, but was probably much less, since time seemed to have slowed down, she woke Pogue. He sat up and talked to her for a while and she made him tell her his name and the names of all eight of his siblings, from his sister Jane Marie on down to baby Ava, to make sure his brain was working. Then she let him go back to sleep.

And she went back to waiting by the window.

She had almost dozed off herself, slumped on the broad windowsill, when she saw the other griffins.

Griffins.

Celie felt as though she'd been struck by lightning, and she could only gasp and stare as a griffin broke out of the trees away to the left, circled twice over the ruined courtyard, and then dived into the forest again. Celie screamed with excitement. She leaned out of the window, trying to catch sight of it again, when two smaller griffins burst out of the forest, chased by the first one she'd seen. The smaller griffins fled, screeching, while the larger one turned back and flew toward the ruins of the stable. It landed and went inside, and Celie nearly fell out of the window trying to see if there were more griffins waiting for it.

More
griffins?

Her heart was racing. She gripped the stone windowsill until her joints ached, and she let out another scream. She had just seen three griffins!
Three!
She danced in place, stomping her feet on the stone floor. Pogue snored on while Celie jumped and clapped her hands.

The emblem of Castle Glower was a tall tower with three griffins flying over it, but until this last year she (and everyone else in Sleyne) had thought that griffins were merely legends. Then her stuffed toy lion, Rufus, had turned into one and eaten horrible Prince Khelsh of Vhervhine, after he had put the Castle to sleep and tried to kill her family. Rufus the Stuffed-Lion Griffin had disappeared, and she had found Rufus the Real-Life Griffin's egg some eight months later. Having seen two real griffins in her life, Celie considered herself to be fabulously lucky, particularly since both the griffins had, essentially, been for her.

And now she'd seen three more.

And one of the three was only a stone's throw away from her tower, in the half-caved-in stables. Did it live there? Celie wondered how many griffins were left in the Glorious Arkower.

Wizard Arkwright, who had come to the Castle to figure out why it was bringing the new rooms willy-nilly, had admitted that he was the one who had brought the Castle to Sleyne centuries before, because all the griffins and their riders were dying of a plague. Most of the riders who made it to Sleyne had died shortly after arriving,
already sick themselves though they hadn't known it, and all their griffins had died.

But it appeared that Arkwright was wrong, or maybe he'd lied. The griffin in the stable was almost as large as a horse, and gleamed golden in the dim sunlight. The other two had been much smaller, and brown, but griffins all the same. Celie just had to get a closer look.

BOOK: Thursdays with the Crown
5.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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