Novel excerpt from Tony Longshanks LeTigre

Wreginslag: The Magic Castle
By Tony LongShanks LeTigre

Chapter One

Razel-An & Zeffidar decided to take a walk through the woods one day rather than going straight home. It was still morning & the fog wrapped the land in thick wool, so dense that you couldn’t see more than a few feet in any direction.

“I love it when the fog is like this,” said Zeff. “Let’s take a little wonderhike & see what we find.”

Raz was game, so he hoisted his little sister onto his shoulders piggyback style.

They passed through the woods, where birds called to one another in the treetops, seemingly engaged in an intricate symphony, a choir of many voices singing to one another in an unknown language of melody & pattern. They had only explored the fringes of these woods before, but today they went farther. The belt of trees proved to be quite narrow, rather than going on for endless miles as they’d imagined. They broke through & came to what appeared a defunct quarry, where Zeff let Raz down from his shoulders.

“What’s this?” she said, examining a large, unusually round rock near the edge of the quarry.

The rock was inscribed with a strange symbol that looked like this:

When she turned it over, there was a message chiseled into it in small, neat letters:

When the wealth of Love overcomes the love of Wealth, we will all be truly Rich

“Interesting?” said Zeff.

They continued, walking separately now. They passed through a meadow that seemed flat but began to slope upwards, almost imperceptibly at first & then more obviously, toward the encircling hills. A stream ran down from the foothills to their right & wended its way through the meadow back to the woods from which they had come. This was new country. A pale yellow butterfly fluttered by, nearly landing atop Razel-An’s strawberry blonde head. “How far will we go?” she asked suddenly, pausing to look back at the woods behind them.

But Zeff was looking ahead at the hills above them, & was not ready to turn back yet. “A little farther,” he said. “Just to the top of this first hill.”

But when they came to the top of that hill, they saw the crest of another hill above them that beckoned. It promised a fantastic view of the fog-draped land below, & they were ill-equipped to refuse that temptation. When they reached the crest of the second hill, the rocky outcropping of yet another hill loomed above them through the thinning fog. And so it went. The hills one-upped one another, or didn’t; for it wasn’t always vertical, it was more horizontal at times, where the hills lay side by side like gigantic grass-covered hippopotamuses wallowing in a tight-packed pod. After they’d covered five or six hillocks this way, they came to a promontory that afforded the impressive view they’d anticipated.

“Wow,” said Razel-An simply.

“Yeah,” Zeff replied.

They looked out on the land beneath them, the whole world they knew, spread like a storybook below them, feeling as though they stood at the prow of a green ship sailing through a sea of fog. But the sea was dissolving as they sailed: it was late morning now & sun was breaking over the eastern hills & through the moving mists. They saw the pit of the quarry below, & the belt of trees they’d walked through, & outside it the little ant-trail of the path they normally took, leading to the Lego toy town where they lived, where the family was probably waiting for them right now; or maybe the family was busy with other concerns & hadn’t noticed their absence yet. In any case, it was a breathtaking view.

“This is inspiring,” Zeff said. “I’m going to start coming up here more often to see this. It fires the imagination somehow, doesn’t it?”

Raz was not as eloquent as Zeff, not as given to expressing herself verbally, but she nodded & made a sound of assent.

They continued. At one point they came to a lone, straggling grey tree with a large crow sitting on one of its gnarled branches. As they approached, the crow, being a most intelligent bird, seemed to take notice of them; it made a loud CAW-CAW-CAW noise & then took off into the air above them.

“Does anyone live up here?” Raz asked. They were in the midst of a series of hills that converged like giant green gumdrops, & could see something above, at the base of the topmost hill: something colorful that glinted in the sunlight in an almost prismatic way.

“I shouldn’t think so,” Zeff said. “But who knows? They would be an odd sort of people, if they did, I should think.”

There seemed to be a trail before them now, leading up between the great green gumdrops; dimly adumbrated at first, but growing ever more clearly defined as they continued. Now they could see what had caught their eyes before: piles of glittering junk, rising & falling like a miniature mountain range, first on one side & then on both sides of the trail, leading upwards towards what appeared to be a derelict castle neatly nestled in a little valley right at the convergence point of the base of three different hills.

“Wow,” said Raz, beginning to feel a tingle of excitement. Suddenly, the day seemed to take on a new meaning.

Zeffidar felt it, too, but said nothing. Wordlessly now, drawn as though by magnetism, they picked their way up the trail, gazing at the piles of gewgaws & bric-a-brac & castoff junk & discount treasure that grew ever larger & more encompassing as they approached the entrance to the castle, like the vomited innards of a slain dragon; like the infinite memory pile of games you used to love as a child, but forgot.

Now they were close enough to see the castle better, & they could see that it was no ordinary castle. It looked like a decrepit castle that had been added on to over an extended period of time by a crew of semi-deranged construction workers. There were walls & ramparts made of round metal canisters; crenellations & parapets & balustrades of glass bottles packed tightly together like bricks; swings made of tires & rope hanging from upper levels; turrets with parasol hats atop them; balconies & widow’s walks precariously constructed & oddly aligned in the building’s upper reaches. A giant flag with the image of a pirate cat with one eye covered by a patch flapped in the air above the arch of the front gate, which was open. Another flag featured a sign similar to the one they’d found on the rock down in the woods.

It was like a giant live-in junk sculpture. But did anyone actually live there?

They got their answer soon enough: the sound of voices from within came to their ears, just as they entered the castle courtyard. It sounded like two women’s voices, though they were deep & husky.

“That’s what these neat freaks don’t understand, is that creative clutter, creative decay, is the element, that’s what life comes from. Keeping everything clean to the point of excess is just…”

“…Stupid, & boring,” finished the other woman.

“Yeah!” agreed the first.

Zeff grabbed his sister by the arm & they ducked into an alcove, for they heard the sound of steps coming down the staircase. They hid themselves in the darkness of an anteroom just inside the front gate, where they could see but (they hoped) not be seen.

And so they got their first glimpse of the boy in the gray cape.

He was dressed & had the features of a boy, anyway, though he was almost too cute to be a boy. He was also slender & of slight stature, no more than five foot eight or nine probably; dressed in tasteful black with nice shoes, with a fine gray cape over his shoulders; his dark hair was clipped short & neat; but he appeared to be wearing dark red lipstick, & there was reddish-pink makeup around his eyes. He carried a book in one hand & held himself with an elegant posture. His fingernails were painted with chipped black polish.

As he reached the bottom of the stairs, a crow flew in the front gate & came to him; he reached out his hand, & Zeff & Raz watched in secret surprise from the shadows as the large black bird alighted upon his forearm & seemed to speak to him in its inscrutable bird language.

“You are good to Koriyen, for you know he loves you, yes?” the boy in the gray cape said to the crow. “But what is the word you bring? Visitors, you say?” He paused & looked around sweepingly.

Razel-An & Zeffidar gripped one another with fear & excitement in their sequestered place.

“It seems we have VISITORS, my darlings!” cried the boy, so that his voice reverberated in the courtyard, interrupting conversation in the adjacent room.

***

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