by Obert Skye
What can happen on an innocent field trip to a museum? In the secure protection of a jail? Or on a simple bus ride? Plenty, if you are a member of the Pillage family and your name is Beck Phillips. No matter what strangeness is going on, Beck still manages to turn things on their head.
When Beck's personality and behavior begin to change after he makes a fateful, life-altering decision involving — what else? — a dragon egg, there is no one around to stop him from fulfilling his family's destiny set out in The Grim Knot. And as life in Kingsplot moves unwittingly toward the brink of another dragon disaster, Beck finds himself living a life of deception as he hides information from the people who love and care about him the most.
In this final episode of the Pillagy series, with the destructive forces of his family heritage running strong and unhindered, Beck must now face the truth and rise to the challenge of stopping the madness or succumb to the draconic chaos he has helped create.
“Skye’s quick-paced, humorous adventure will keep kids of all ages reading.” — Las Vegas Review-Journal
- Size: 5½ x 7
- Pages: 320
- Released: 01/2012
About the Author
Obert Skye is the bestselling author of the Leven Thumps and Pillagy series. He is also the author of the comic novels, The Creature from My Closet. Obert lives in a constant state of wonder. He has a keen sense of smell and is the owner of a great deal of curiosity. For further information about Obert’s current whereabouts or state of mind, visit abituneven.com.
I’ve Just Seen a Face
Heaving and coughing, the yellow bus inched along the cobblestone road like a caterpillar with stiff joints and a rumbling belly. It swerved to avoid an old man walking an even older dog along the side of the road. All of us swayed to the right and then swayed back into place, jiggling like springs. A few students complained about being jostled, but not me, it was the first exciting thing that had happened all day. I looked at Kate as she sat next to me on the bus seat.
“We’re almost there,” she said as if I needed to hear it.
“Great,” I replied. “I’m trying not to be too excited.”
Kate ignored my perfectly good sarcasm and turned to gaze out one of the side windows. Through the windshield I could see the two other school buses moving in front of us. Like ours, they were filled with students who were all on their way to a museum.
“Look on the bright side, Beck,” Kate replied. “It’s nice to be out of our school and enjoying the weather.”
Kate had ignored my sarcasm, so now I ignored hers. The weather in Kingsplot today was like the weather yesterday, and most likely the weather tomorrow—misty, with a chance of more mist and prolonged gloom. The sun was up there somewhere, but it was anyone’s guess when it might actually man up and step out from behind the clouds to show itself.
“Did you bring a camera?” Kate asked.
“Why would I need a camera?” I asked honestly. “It’s a museum. I’m pretty sure seeing everything once will be plenty. It’s a field trip, not a memorable event.”
The field trip I was talking about had been a surprise to all of us. Last week Professor Squall had told our class that if we all caught up on our work we would be rewarded. So the entire class had worked as hard as we could. Then yesterday he informed us that the reward was a field trip to the town museum—and most of our class felt ripped off. True, a few of the kids tried to act excited, but they all had a reputation for being kiss-ups.
“I was hoping the reward involved food,” I said. “Or early release from school, or maybe a new car.”
“You get to ride on a bus next to me,” Kate said, smiling.
I told her she needed to work on being more humble.
I don’t know why I was bothered about the field trip. It’s not like I would prefer to be sitting in my classroom. Besides I had positive things to think about. There was only one more month until summer break, I was getting straight B’s, I had turned seventeen a couple of weeks earlier, and I hadn’t done anything to mess up too badly since the last time I had messed up.
“Remember the dragons?” I whispered to Kate, thinking back to one of my many messes.
“Of course,” she whispered back.
I looked at the other students on the bus and wondered why nobody ever mentioned the pillage now. The town of Kingsplot was weird. It seemed that there was something about the air that made people’s minds foggy. It amazed me that people didn’t discuss daily the pillaging that had taken place well over a year ago. The magic and misty air of the Hagen Valley seemed to be wiping most people’s brains clean. Occasionally someone would point at me and say, “You.” But that was the worst of it anymore. No reporters came around, and the outside world either had lost interest and written it off as a hoax, or didn’t acknowledge it, or had forgotten.
At the moment the town of Kingsplot was almost completely put back together. Buildings that had been damaged once again looked like their old stodgy selves. Roses grew on brick walls and along the cobblestone streets, looking like they always had. Any new construction already seemed to look old and weathered and as nonglamorous as any place could appear. People went about their business as if there were no reason to stop and marvel at what had once happened in their simple lives, as if their minds were determined to forget the past and move slowly and quaintly into the future.
“Look at that cloud,” Kate said, pointing out the side window. “It looks like Lizzy.”
The Lizzy Kate was referring to was the dragon we had most recently raised. The long white cloud did look like Lizzy with her wings spread out and her long tail whipping behind her. The head wasn’t exactly right, but I could clearly see the resemblance. The real Lizzy had been majestic and intoxicating. Her presence had drawn us in like a strong magnet. Her skin was opalescent and shimmered like the edge of a strong dream. We had fallen in love with her, but in the end she changed and attempted to kill everyone I loved. It had taken everything we had to stop her. It had been just over two months now since Lizzy had died. The parts of the Pillage manor and garage that had been damaged were put back together, and life was carrying on in the slow, wet fashion of everyday Kingsplot.
The yellow school bus pulled to a stop right behind the two other buses and next to the curb directly in front of the museum. The street we were on was sloped so as I stood up, I, along with everyone else, stumbled forward and out the front door. As a good friend, I shoved Wyatt out the exit.
It wasn’t raining today, and the clouds were just high enough that we could see for a few miles. I stood there with Wyatt, looking around. The Kingsplot museum was called Wiggendale, named after one of the important people who had lived here years ago, Cedric Wiggendale. It was a large, brown brick building shaped like a fat rectangle. It had hundreds of square, opaque front windows and a crown of slate gray stone that ran along the length of the top. The Wiggendale Museum was located next to Lake Mend, the largest lake in the Hagen Valley.
The spot where Wiggendale sat was often referred to as the loveliest spot in town—at least that’s what the big wooden sign near the lakeshore claimed. There were roses everywhere and rolling green lawns that seemed to spill over the edges and into the water. This morning, however, the beauty was muted, and the scene looked washed-out and lifeless.
The Wiggendale building itself was interesting, but it really wasn’t any more impressive than the huge stone manor I lived in. In fact, part of the reason it was hard for me to get hyped about this field trip was because I felt like I already lived in a museum. Ever since I had moved to Kingsplot I had been surrounded by old things—an old father, an old house, old grounds, an old school, and old problems that my ancestors had cooked up years ago.
“I’m already bored,” Wyatt said as we all walked toward the building.
The brick walkway leading to the front of the museum was wet from mist, and at least three students slipped and fell down as we walked into the building. None of them got hurt, but it made me wish I had brought a camera. While walking to the front door, I thought I heard a couple of the rosebushes growl at me.
“Did you hear that?” I asked Kate, pointing at one of the bushes.
“Hear what?” she replied.
I looked at the silent rosebushes. Ever since we had dropped the final stone down the hidden chute in the manor, nothing treelike nor growing had bothered me. It was so nice to walk confidently through the woods without worrying that some fern would strangle me.
“I think that bush growled,” I explained.
“Come on,” Kate said, smiling. “That doesn’t happen anymore.”
Right inside the front door of Wiggendale was a big mural of Kingsplot, painted years ago by a man who supposedly had no arms. Next to the mural was an old photo of the actual artist painting with his feet. I was pretty impressed.
Just past the mural was a large display of cactuses in a fake Southwest setting. The scene was supposed to represent the landscape that early pioneers had left to come East and settle the Hagen Valley. Next to that was a room filled with flags and old license plates nailed to the wall.
I didn’t wonder for a second why I didn’t come here more often. Everywhere I looked I could see ancient, dusty artifacts. To my left was an old bike that the first mayor of Kingsplot had once ridden. To my right was a huge picture of Kingsplot fifty years ago, which looked almost the same as it did today. And directly in front of me was a really old security guard with a huge gray mustache. He was wearing a uniform and had a billy club strapped to his waist. His wide brown eyes looked frightened by all the students now pouring in through the front doors. He backed up a few steps and tried to blend into the wall.
I had never felt safer.
I heard our teacher Professor Squall across the room loudly telling someone to not touch something.
“Maybe that’s the problem,” I whispered to Kate.
“What problem?” she asked.
“With museums,” I clarified. “You can’t touch anything here. Who knows if all this junk is even real?”
Kate pointed toward a suitcase that was sitting on a table. There was a sign underneath it that read: Duke Elliott’s official travel luggage.
“Are you saying that’s not real?” Kate asked.
“Who knows?” I replied. “It could just be a hologram.” I reached out and touched the suitcase—it wasn’t a hologram. As I was pulling my hand back, a man to my right shouted.
The man who was using his outdoor voice indoors was the museum director. I knew this because he had on a badge that read: Museum Director. Mr. Museum smiled the sort of smile that suggested he was on to me and then cleared his throat and turned to look at all the students. He was a slight man with tiny hands and large, perfectly round nostrils that twitched and expanded as he breathed. He had droopy ears and a Band-Aid on his forehead. Above the Band-Aid was a head of very thick black hair.
“Good day, students,” he said seriously, his thick, sticky voice as unusual as his appearance. “Today I desire for you all to see things which will provoke the sedentary mind and open your eyes to hissssssssstory.”
We all stared respectfully at him.
“History,” he clarified, as if the drawn-out hissy version was too much for our sedentary minds to understand.
A few of us nodded to let him know that we understood and that he could move on. He slowly led us from room to room talking about pictures and dusty objects that probably should have been thrown out years ago. He pointed to what looked like an old jug and said, “The winds of change can often blow with calmness and grace.”
I leaned over and whispered into Kate’s right ear. “What’s that have to do with that jug?”
“I have no idea,” she whispered back.
“We have way older stuff in my house,” I reminded her.
“Right,” Kate replied softly. “But that junk’s not important to Kingsplot.”
“Actually, I bet it’s more important than this stuff,” I argued. “Kingsplot wouldn’t be what it is if it hadn’t been for my family and their junk.”
“Excuse me?” the tiny hand man said, apparently bothered by the fact that Kate and I were talking while he was. “Is there a tidbit of information you wish to share with the whole of us?”
I couldn’t really understand his phraseology, but I knew from his inflection that he was asking a question.
“Well?” he asked impatiently. “What do you have to say?”
I thought about continuing to ignore him, but being the polite young man that I was, I tossed out an answer.
The museum curator stared at me as if I were an exhibit he wished had been discontinued. He looked at Professor Squall and shook his head. Professor Squall sighed loudly and then walked over and stood next to Kate and me.
“Beck, we don’t need any extra commentary from you today,” Squall insisted in a whisper. “This man is very important and has graciously volunteered to give us a bit of his time.”
“Sorry,” I said, trying to sound sincere without too many extra words.
Mr. Museum cleared his throat and continued talking. He went on about an old tattered flag, waving his miniature marshmallow fingers around. After he gushed about the flag, he went on and on about a big clay pole for a few minutes. I had no idea there was so much to be said about a clay pole, but he was filled to the top of his furry head with info. After the pole talk, he led us as a group into a different room.
The new room was large—the ceilings were twenty feet high—and painted gray. The walls were dirty, and I could see dark mold along the baseboards. I thought about pointing that out and demanding that I be allowed to leave and breathe fresh air, but I knew Squall wouldn’t go for it. In the middle of the room was a gigantic clear ball that was filled with half-inch metal balls. The massive orb looked like the top of a huge gumball machine with shiny steel gumballs inside. It was six feet tall, and I could see dust on the very top of it. Surrounding the sphere were a dozen or so life-sized iron statues of women and men. A low, red velvet rope circled the entire display to keep people from getting too close.
Mr. Museum—or Mr. M as I now affectionately called him in my mind—stopped in front of the large sphere and asked, “Do you know what we have here?”
One of the super-genius girls from the other class raised her hand. Mr. M pointed toward her like he was pressing an invisible doorbell.
“Those are steel ball bearings in there,” the girl informed us all. “They were made at the old steel mill on the other side of Lake Mend.”
“Good answer,” the curator said. “You are a friend of history.”
“And,” the girl continued, “that mill has been closed for years, but it was the main employer in Kingsplot for a very long time.”
“Fantastic,” Mr. M said. “And the container of ball bearings is surrounded by the statues of the men and women who built and ran the factory. They in turn helped build up the town of Kingsplot here in the Hagen Valley. All of us owe them a great debt of gratitude for what we now enjoy.”
I looked around, wondering exactly what we were enjoying.
Mr. M praised Smart Girl some more and then pointed across the room toward an old car. He waved his tiny hands to motion for us to move away from the orb. Everyone except me followed like sheep addicted to history. I had seen old cars before, but I’d never seen so many shiny metal balls in one container, and something inside of me wanted to touch the display. I leaned over the red velvet rope and put my right hand against the plastic sphere. It was cold. The plastic felt like a window in autumn, and a small chill ran up my arms and caused my body to shiver slightly. I stared at all the silver ball bearings inside. The millions of shiny balls were transfixing.
Kate had walked off with the group, but she turned around and saw me touching the round display. She made some sort of hissing noise while shaking her head. I took my hands off the huge sphere and leaned back out over the rope. I stood tall and tried to make it look like I was paying attention. Kate rolled her blue eyes and turned away. Mr. M was saying something about how the car he was pointing at once belonged to the third mayor of Kingsplot. He then paused. I clapped because I thought I should. Everyone turned to look at me.
“Excuse me?” Mr. M asked.
“Nothing,” I said, my face turning slightly red. “I was just clapping about the car.”
Mr. M made an expression that looked similar to one a person might make if they had accidentally stepped in cat vomit with their bare feet.
“Sorry,” I tried.
He sniffed in a passive-aggressive way and then went back to talking about the old car. Everyone turned away from me as they continued to listen to him. I looked at Kate for support. Her expression looked similar to the one a person might make if they suddenly realized they were dating an idiot. She turned away and gave all her attention to the speaker.
Hanging my head, I sighed. I looked at the large plastic ball with the ball bearings. The millions of silver balls were spellbinding. I could see shapes and shadows all throughout the globe. I looked over at Mr. M and tried to act interested.
He was now telling everyone about how the mayor’s car had a secret compartment in it. Normally that was something I would care about, but at the moment I had millions of silver balls on my mind. Plus, the statues surrounding it were cool looking. The still metal faces and expressions of those who had once lived here were hypnotizing. One of the statues behind the plastic orb even looked oddly familiar. I wanted to step over the rope and take a better look, but I forced my feet to keep still. I needed Mr. M and the crowd of students to move on. There was something about that statue’s face that I needed to examine.