Elliot and the Last Underworld WarJennifer A. Nielsen
Copyright Copyright (c) 2012 by Jennifer A. Nielsen Cover and internal illustrations (c) Gideon Kendall Cover and internal design (c) 2012 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Series design by Gothamhaus Design Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems--except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews--without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410
Fax: (630) 961-2168
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data is on file with the publisher.
Source of Production: Bang Printing, Brainerd, Minnesota, USA Date of Production: March 2012
Run Number: 17203
For Chase, who has the heart of a king.
Chapter 1: Where Mr. Beary-Boo Is Not Happy
Chapter 2: Where the Sun Goes Dark
Chapter 3: Where the Earth Sinks
Chapter 4: Where Cami Walks In
Chapter 5: Where Something Grabs Elliot's Gut
Chapter 6: Where It Begins
Chapter 7: Where Elliot Steps into Shadow
Chapter 8: Where Fire Burns
Chapter 9: Where Everyone Arrives
Chapter 10: Where Elliot Meets Slimy Toe Jam
Chapter 11: Where Minthred Likes Goats
Chapter 12: Where Elliot Stops
Chapter 13: Where Kovol Knows Elliot's Name
Chapter 14: Where Kovol Wants a Duck Burger
Chapter 15: Where Grissel Returns
Chapter 16: Where Harold Makes a Mistake
Chapter 17: Where Grissel Goes Free...Sort Of
Chapter 18: Where the Plan Fails
Chapter 19: Where Elliot's Feet Complain
Chapter 20: Where Kovol Needs Deodorant
Chapter 21: Where Grissel Bows
Chapter 22: Where Harold Confesses
Chapter 23: Where the Magic Fails
Chapter 24: Where Tubs Teaches Kovol
Chapter 25: Where the Juice Is Shaken or Stirred
Chapter 26: Where Kovol Gets Jealous
Chapter 27: Where Kovol Eats His Last Meal
Chapter 28: Where Elliot Has a Scar
Chapter 29: Where Elliot Goes Home
About the Author
About the Illustrator
Unless you already know how to save planet Earth from total destruction, read the next sentence of this book! Actually, this second sentence won't be all that helpful. Obviously not this third one either. Let's be honest, you'll probably need to read the entire book if you hope to learn anything useful.
In the first two books of Elliot's story, children were warned to stop reading as soon as possible. Recent scientific studies have shown that one in five readers obeyed the warning and put their books down right away. They have hidden in fear under their beds ever since, gratefully living off whatever crumbs were left behind by their kind mice friends.
Those readers who ignored the warning stepped into dangers they could not have foreseen. For example, at least twenty children read about Elliot while walking to school and accidentally stepped into potholes. This might not seem dangerous now, but if you continue reading this book, you will understand that holes of all sizes should be taken very seriously.
Even if you dared to read the other books about Elliot, this book's warning should not be ignored. In fact, if you care at all for planet Earth, you will pay very close attention to the lessons inside these pages. In past books, you were urged to close the book and run away. But now you are warned to turn the pages as fast as you can read them. You must know what happens inside this book to learn whether Earth gets destroyed. Because let's face it--that would be a bad thing.
If you cannot wait until the end of the book to find out if Earth has been destroyed, then here are a few tips to help you figure it out for yourself.
First, you should go to your kitchen cupboards and see if you have some peanut butter to make a sandwich. If you have no peanut butter, no cupboards, and for that matter, no kitchen, then it's possible that Earth was destroyed.
Second, you should ask your teacher when your homework is due. If she says it's not due until Friday because Earth was destroyed, then you will have your answer. Also, you won't have to worry about your grades anymore.
The final way to know if Earth has been destroyed is to look out your bedroom window. If you see planets and cosmos instead of plants and cars, then you are flying through space. This will mean that Elliot lost the war, and you will have to find a new planet to live on.
Hint: Choose a planet that has ice cream. You won't regret it.
It was a day Elliot Penster would remember for the rest of his life. Oddly, up until exactly 11:14 am, it was a day Elliot would very much have liked to forget.
Because in all of his eleven years of life, Elliot had never had a day like this one. He had experienced some pretty unusual things, especially beginning last fall when he was made king of the Brownies. Since then, he'd been scared half to death by Goblins, had his house blown up, and had been kidnapped to the Underworld, where he ended up on an adventure that could change the course of world history. More about that later. Much, much more, in fact.
But as unusual as Elliot's recent life had been, somehow nothing was stranger than his being paired for a game of Capture the Flag with the scariest girl in the fifth grade, Cambria Dawn Wortson, aka Cami with Warts On, aka Toadface.
For a long time, Elliot had felt that Cami must have inherited her looks from a toad somewhere in her family. But over the past winter she had gotten rid of her thick glasses that made her eyes look like melons with pupils, and she had stopped wearing clothes that made her look like a prison guard. Elliot's mother even commented that she thought Cami had become quite pretty over the winter. Elliot's sister, Wendy, said the only reason Elliot insisted he didn't like Cami was because he secretly did like her. That was ridiculous, of course. But at least he had stopped peeking at Cami's hands to see if the fingers were webbed like a toad's.
Over the past few months, Cami had decided that she and Elliot should do stuff together. Maybe even have fun at the same time. So apparently, they were friends now. Despite that, Elliot still considered Cami his number one arch nemesis.
Many readers of this book will be surprised to learn that Elliot's arch nemesis is Cami and not Kovol, the most evil Demon of all time.
Battling evil Demons wasn't Elliot's favorite thing about being king of the Brownies. He would have much preferred to drink Mushroom Surprise and sit on his royal toadstool in Burrowsville, where the Brownies lived. But nearly four months ago, he had awoken Kovol from his thousand-year nap. It was an accident, and the last thing Elliot had wanted to do, but he'd had no choice. Going to Kovol's cave in Demon Territory had been the only way to save his ex-bully, Tubs Lawless, from the Pixies, and his Brownie friend, Mr. Willimaker, from the Fairies. In revenge for what Elliot had done, Kovol had promised revenge on the entire human race. Good grief, Elliot thought. That had t
o be about the biggest overreaction of all time.
But one thing still kept Kovol from being Elliot's arch nemesis. For the past four months, Kovol had been stuck in a pit of gripping mud deep in the Underworld. He wouldn't be able to escape until there was a total eclipse of the sun. At that point, Kovol would probably move up to the number one position on Elliot's list of enemies.
Then Cami would have to slide down to number two, because, after all, she isn't trying to kill Elliot. She just really annoys him.
And she was especially annoying him today. Because when he showed up that morning to play a game of Capture the Flag in the woods behind his house, Cami had already picked him for her teammate. The other team wasn't much better. On that side was Tubs, who often got confused if he ever had to say more than two sentences in a row. Tubs was playing alone, because even he couldn't bully someone into being on his team.
"That's okay if I'm alone." Tubs pulled a stuffed teddy bear from his shirt. "Mr. Beary-Boo will guard our flag."
"Why do you have a teddy bear in your shirt?" Elliot asked.
"He's my best friend!" Tubs snarled. "Besides, there's two of you, so I need his help."
"We'll make you a deal," Cami said. "You let Mr. Beary-Boo guard your flag, and then we'll find something to guard ours. Then all of us will go out and try to steal the other team's flag."
And so the game began. Cami and Elliot found a small clearing surrounded by tall trees and thick bushes. They hid their flag in the dense branches of a maple tree while Tubs hid his flag somewhere farther away. "You start looking for the other flag," Cami told Elliot. "I'll get the guard for ours."
"Like what? Mr. Beary-Boo's long-lost teddy bear brother?" Elliot said. "You could have a dumb rock as guard for all it matters, because in case you didn't notice, Mr. Beary-Boo isn't real!"
Cami laughed. "You'd probably say Leprechauns aren't real either."
Elliot only shrugged. If Goblins and Elves and Pixies were real, then Leprechauns probably were too.
"Let's go!" Cami said. "Try to find his flag. I'll be back in a minute with our"--she stopped to giggle--"our guard!"
Elliot rolled his eyes and then began running. He used to think these woods behind his house were sort of scary, so he'd always tried to avoid them. But then he had come face-to-face with Kovol, and nothing could ever be as scary as that.
He explored different areas where he was sure Tubs might have hidden the flag and listened carefully for any sounds that would tell him where Tubs was searching for his and Cami's flag. But all he heard was the wind brushing through the springtime leaves and the occasional chirp of a bird.
Then Elliot squinted in the distance. It was hard to know because of the shadows ahead, but he was pretty sure he saw Tubs's flag--an old green pillowcase--hanging from a tree.
Just hanging from a tree? Not hidden or disguised or anything?
Elliot smiled as he got closer. Tubs had put it near a clump of leaves. He probably hoped Elliot would think the pillowcase was just a really, really, really big leaf.
On the tree branch beside the pillowcase was Mr. Beary-Boo. Up close the teddy bear looked really old, and one of his button eyes was missing. No wonder he hadn't seen Elliot coming.
Laughing at his own joke, Elliot plucked the pillowcase off the tree. Now he had to get it back to his home base without being caught.
He turned to go and immediately ran right into Tubs's wide chest. Elliot bounced off it and landed on the ground.
"Mr. Beary-Boo thought you'd try something like this," Tubs said in a voice that reminded Elliot of the days when Tubs used to bully him. "Give me that pillowcase, or else."
Elliot swallowed hard. When Tubs talked like that, it always meant trouble. And trouble was the last thing Elliot wanted today.
Tubs was the closest thing to a brick wall Elliot had ever run into (other than the brick wall he had run into a week ago when he forgot to watch where he was going). Now Elliot sat on the ground with the pillowcase flag in his hand.
"I said give me the flag, or else," Tubs snarled.
Elliot gripped the flag tighter. He wouldn't back down, no matter what Tubs threatened. "Or else what?" he asked.
Tubs frowned. "Or else I'll lose. Duh!"
Elliot rolled his eyes and got ready to run again. Tubs reached for the flag, but Elliot crawled between his widespread legs. Tubs kept bending lower to catch Elliot but ended up with his head behind his knees, then rolled into a somersault that left him flat on the ground.
Elliot leapt to his feet and ran toward his and Cami's base. "I've got it!" he yelled. "I've got it!"
Tubs crashed through the woods behind him, calling Elliot's name. At first he had laughed as he yelled for Elliot to slow down. Then his voice became angrier as he said, "Seriously. Give me the flag. I hate losing!"
"Me too!" Elliot answered. He wasn't far from their base now. He was easily going to win, and Cami hadn't done one thing to help. So he had beaten Tubs on his own!
Elliot ran into the clearing where their flag was still hidden. Then he stopped.
Cami had told him at least 120 million times over the winter that she had taken up paper-mache as a hobby. (Okay, maybe not quite that many times. But it was at least twice.) She had explained that this craft was as simple as dipping strips of paper in watered-down glue and putting them on a frame in whatever shapes she wanted. Then she had invited him over to her house to try it. "When it dries, you can paint it however you want!" she had said.
But Elliot had never wanted to try it. And he couldn't think of a single reason why he might ever want to in the future. Even if his life depended on it, he wouldn't have anything to do with Cami's paper-mache. So she told him that was fine, she would do her project without him.
And right now, beneath their hidden flag was their "guard." It was Cami's paper-mache project and was almost guaranteed to ruin his life once and for all.
It was a life-size version of him.
The worst part was that she had done a pretty good job. He had to get right up to its paper-mached face to know it wasn't really him.
"What do you think?" Cami bounced on her heels excitedly.
"Um." That was all he could think of to say. If he had ever known any other words, he couldn't think of even one.
"It's cool, right? I worked on it all winter and just finished it a week ago. I've been waiting for the perfect time to show it to you."
How could she possibly think this was the perfect time? And why did she have to carry that thing out in public? Everyone who saw it would know it was supposed to be him.
Behind Elliot, Tubs crashed into the clearing. He stopped right beside Elliot when he saw the paper-mache doll.
"You've got to be kidding," Tubs said.
Elliot closed his eyes. This was it. The beginning of the end (or the end of the beginning). The point when he wouldn't mind so much if the entire universe folded in half and squished him flat. Now Tubs would tease him and Cami about liking each other. Or sing rhymes using their names. Or make kissing noises when they walked by.
"I really don't believe it," Tubs added, walking closer.
"Do you like it?" Cami asked.
"It's so cool!" Tubs said. "I mean, whatever makes Elliot such a dork all the time, you really understood that when you made this. Great job!"
Elliot frowned. That might've been a compliment to Cami, but it wasn't to him.
Cami gestured at the doll. "What do you think?"
"It doesn't look anything like me," he said. "My hair is dark blond, not light brown, and my eyes aren't purple."
She giggled. "Yeah, but they're cooler that way."
"And I don't have a goofy, crooked smile," he continued.
"Sure you do," Cami said. "But this is my first try with life-size humans. Mostly I've been doing creature crafts."
Elliot's ears perked up. "What sort of creatures?" As king of the Brownies, he had to guard very carefully against anyone learning of the existence of mythological creatures.
The Brownies were very sensitive about that.
"Oh, you'd love it! I just finished a model of a Goblin. He's tiny, and I painted him light pink. He's so cute!"
Elliot rolled his eyes. Goblins were not tiny or any shade of pink, and they definitely were not cute! If their leader, Grissel, ever saw the model, he'd blow it up. And probably Cami's house along with it.
Seeing that Elliot was not impressed, Cami frowned and said, "I thought if you saw how cool this model was, you'd want to make some paper-mache creatures with me sometime."
"Um, no," Elliot said. Which was a very ordinary thing to say considering the very extraordinary thing that happened next.
Exactly when Elliot's watch turned to 11:14, the sunlight dimmed. It had been high in the sky when they started this game not too long ago.
Elliot forgot the flag in his hand and dropped it on the ground. It was as if night had suddenly decided to come all at once, even though it was still the middle of the day. "What's going on?" he asked.
"Oh, I forgot!" Cami rummaged through a bag slung over her shoulder. "There's a total eclipse of the sun today! I made a pinhole viewer so that we could watch it. Now, where--ah!" She pulled the pinhole viewer from her bag and showed it to Tubs and Elliot. "This is the only safe way to watch a solar eclipse."
As far as Elliot was concerned, there was nothing safe about a solar eclipse. Or at least, not this solar eclipse. Because as soon as the moon fully crossed in front of the sun, Kovol would be free.
Kovol had promised to destroy Earth once he escaped the gripping mud. Part of Elliot hoped that Kovol might have changed his mind while he was stuck in the mud. Maybe instead of getting revenge on Elliot, Kovol would celebrate his release by ordering some pizza. But the rest of Elliot understood that probably wouldn't happen. At least he couldn't think of any pizza places that delivered to the Underworld.
The eclipse created a strange light in the air. It wasn't true darkness, but more like everything had fallen into shadow. And with Elliot's mind on Kovol, the unusual light became even eerier.
A moment later the sun and moon had passed each other, and everything became normal again. It would've been an exciting moment if Elliot hadn't understood exactly what was now happening in the Underworld.
"Where are you going?" Cami asked him. "If you leave, we're gonna lose the game!"
"Mr. Beary-Boo will be so happy when I tell him we won!" Tubs said.