© 2012 Mark L. Forman.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, Shadow Mountain®. The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Shadow Mountain.
All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Forman, Mark, 1964–
Albrek’s tomb / M. L. Forman.
pages cm.—(Adventurers wanted, book 3)
Summary: Newly-named wizard Alexander Taylor joins a familiar company of adventurers on a new quest to discover the fate of the legendary dwarf Albrek, find his mythical tomb, and locate the lost talisman that could be the key needed to save the entire dwarf realm.
ISBN 978-1-60908-892-7 (hardbound : alk. paper)
1. Young adult fiction, American. [1. Orphans—Fiction 2. Teenage boys—Fiction. 3. Wizards—Fiction. 4. Dwarves—Fiction. 5. Magic—Fiction.]
I. Title. II. Series: Adventurers wanted ; bk 3.
Printed in the United States of America
R. R. Donnelley, Crawfordsville, IN
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To my family, who is always there for me
Table of Contents
A New Quest
East by North
The Lost Fiddler
The Paladin's Tale
Road to Danger
Across the Open Sea
The Isle of Bones
The Road to Kazad-Syn
The Third Bag
The Cursed City
Return from Darkness
The Dragon Returns
The Oracle Returns
The Crown of Set
A New Home
Well, it’s time for acknowledgments again, and I’m still not certain how this is supposed to work. How do you really thank so many people for everything they’ve done? Well, I’ll give it a go, and if I leave someone out, I’m sorry.
Right up front I want to thank you, the reader. You are the people who make this all possible, and without you these stories would just sit in a computer file gathering . . . well, whatever the electronic equivalent of dust is. I thank you all and hope that the stories never let you down.
Special thanks to my editor, Lisa Mangum, who saves me from myself and makes people believe I know what I’m doing when I write. I should do more than just thank her, I should probably apologize for all the headaches I’m sure I’ve given her. Lisa, the next bottle of aspirin is on me.
Thanks to Chris Schoebinger, the big cheese at Shadow Mountain. I still don’t know what his real title is, but he’s still getting things done. Somehow he always finds time to answer my questions, read my work, and point out some of the bigger problems before the story ever gets to the editor. (Lisa, you might want to split that bottle of aspirin with Chris.)
Credit should also be given to Brandon Dorman, the illustrator. I’m always surprised and excited to see what the new cover looks like, and somehow it is always better than what I imagined.
Special thanks to Richard Erickson, Art Director. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think I’ve ever met Richard, and I have to take other people’s word that he’s out there. I think Shadow Mountain must keep him locked in his office, working on projects all the time, but I’m glad he had time to work on mine.
And finally, a big thank-you to all the folks at Shadow Mountain who didn’t get their names put into type. I know there are a lot of people doing a lot of hard work to make this happen, and I thank you.
A New Quest
The heat from the furnace was intense. Alex stood close, sweat dripping off his nose as he watched the small porcelain bowl filled with several lumps of true-silver ore. He was working in the smithy that his father had installed inside his magic bag, but no matter how hot the furnace got, the ore in the bowl simply would not melt. Alex moved back to the workbench, checking the book he’d been reading.
Alex had taken up working in the smithy as a hobby on the advice of his teacher, Whalen Vankin.
“Focusing on something nonmagical will give you a chance to work with your hands as well as relax your mind,” Whalen had said. “If you think about magic all the time, you might not notice the normal things that are going on around you.”
As Alex reread the page that explained how to work with true silver, he heard an odd tutting sound. He straightened up and looked around the room. The furnace hissed, the bellows pumped, and the true silver remained unchanged. He returned to the book, but he’d already read the information three times. He snapped it shut in frustration.
Another sound met his ears: a soft humph. He looked at the furnace again, but nothing had changed and the sound wasn’t repeated. He moved closer, checked the status of the true silver again, and finally shut off the waterwheel that worked the bellows. The smithy was quiet, except for the furnace that continued to hiss and moan as it cooled.
Alex carefully removed the bowl from the furnace and poured the lumps of true silver onto the sand-covered table. He tried to bend the lumps or twist them—he even took one piece to the anvil and hit it with a hammer—but nothing he did made a dent.
The tutting sound came again, much louder now that the waterwheel and the bellows had stopped. Alex felt someone—or perhaps something—was watching him. Turning slowly, he scanned the smithy. He was alone, but the feeling of being watched remained.
“Who’s there?” Alex asked out loud.
“I know there’s someone there,” said Alex. “You might as well speak up because I will find you, one way or another.”
He heard a soft humph from the far side of the room, a humph that said, “I doubt it.”
“Come now, show yourself,” said Alex. “I won’t hurt you.”
Again there was no reply.
Alex sent out a bit of magic to search the room as he tried once more to coax the hidden watcher out. “I’m being as nice as I can about this. Please, show yourself before I have to force you into the open.”
The silence remained, but Alex’s magic had found something. There was a small creature standing behind the books on the far side of the room. Alex had no idea what the creature was, but he didn’t think it was dangerous.
“Very well, if you will not show yourself, I will have to use magic to force you into the open,” said Alex.
Another loud humph, which Alex took to mean, “I don’t believe you will succeed, but feel free to try.”
“You asked for it,” Alex muttered.
Alex remained still and silent, letting the magic he had used to find the creature form into a magical rope around the creature’s legs. As the rope took shape, Alex added a little more magic to the spell, but the creature must have noticed what was happening because there was a gasp, followed by the sound of running feet. Alex was ready. The magic rope pulled tight, lifting the creature into the air and whisking it toward a large empty table in the middle of the room. Alex watched as his captive floated upside down above the tabletop; it looked like a nine-inch-tall dwarf.
“Gear offva me! Let go!” the creature shouted. “I’ve done noth
ing wrong. I claim the right of sanctuary in this bag!”
“The right of sanctuary? Who are you, and what are you doing here?” Alex questioned.
“I might ask you the same thing,” answered the creature. “I’ll answer to Master Joshua and none other.”
“The master of the bag, Joshua Taylor,” said the creature, looking at Alex suspiciously. “I demand to see the master of the bag.”
“I’m the master of the bag,” said Alex. “I’m Alexander Taylor, Joshua Taylor’s heir.”
“If you’re the heir, then you should know who and what I am,” said the creature hotly. “Master Joshua wouldn’t have given his bag to an heir and not told him about us.”
“My father didn’t tell me anything about his bag,” said Alex. “He died when I was just a baby.”
“Died? What do you mean died? I don’t believe it, not one word of it,” shouted the creature.
“It’s true—” said Alex.
“Prove it,” the creature interrupted.
“I want proof that Master Joshua is dead and that you are, in fact, his heir.”
“I can give you my word.”
“Ha! A likely story. Just what a bag thief would say. ‘Give you my word,’ indeed. What’s the word of a bag thief worth?”
“I’m no thief,” said Alex angrily. “I give you my word that what I’ve said is true, and if you are foolish enough to doubt the word of a wizard then I’ll have to expel you from my bag.”
“A wizard you say? Ha! Oh, you’ve got some magic in you that’s plain enough to see, but you’re no wizard. You’re far too young; you’ve no staff and no familiar. You’re not even wearing one of those funny robes that so many wizards like to wear.”
“Silence,” Alex demanded. “I am Alexander Taylor, wizard and adventurer. I am the son and heir of Joshua Taylor, and I do have a staff.”
“Oh, do you now? Well then, Mr. Wizard, be so good as to show me your staff.”
“All right, I’ll go and get it.”
“Go and get it, he says,” the creature sneered. “As if a wizard needs to go and get his staff. Ha!”
Alex frowned at the insult. He’d only been a wizard for a couple of months, and he didn’t need his staff very often. Especially when he was home and not on an adventure.
He closed his eyes for a moment, remembering the spell that would summon his staff to his hand. Opening his eyes, he held out his right hand, releasing the magic at the same moment. There was a sound like a rushing wind, and Alex’s staff appeared in his open hand.
The creature gasped, and Alex almost burst out laughing as its eyes grew large and its mouth tried to fall open but failed because he was still upside down.
“Oh, sir, a thousand apologies,” the creature stammered as Alex finally turned him right side up and released him. “I had no idea, I mean, Master Joshua never said—”
“Yes, I’m sure my father didn’t get a chance to say a lot of things,” said Alex. “Now, will you tell me who and what you are?”
“I’m Bobkin,” said the creature, snapping to attention. “Master smitty and keeper of the sanctuary.”
“Master smitty?” Alex questioned.
“Yes, sir.” Bobkin smiled with pride. “We’re magical folk that work in smithies. I’m not surprised you’ve never heard of us—not many people have. You may have heard of our cousins, though, the cobblers.”
“Cobblers? Oh, the little people who help make shoes,” said Alex.
“Shoes are what they are most known for, but they do all kinds of leather work. None better in the known lands,” said Bobkin.
“So you do the same kind of thing, only with smithing work,” said Alex.
“And you live here in this bag?”
“As keeper of the sanctuary, I have to stay,” answered Bobkin. “Of course, that could change now, what with Master Joshua gone.”
“Why would that change?”
“Your father was a kind man, sir, and he allowed us to set up a sanctuary here in his magic bag,” said Bobkin. “Smittys won’t work just anywhere; we have to be invited. And the smith doin’ the inviting has to have some talent for the work. He has to see the work as something more than just a job. It takes the right attitude to be a great smith, and if a smith doesn’t have it, we won’t stay. There are times when we have no place at all to live.”
“They have to see smith work as an art,” said Alex in a thoughtful tone.
“Yes, an art,” Bobkin agreed. “Smith work can be one of the greatest arts, but so few smiths see it that way.”
“I think I understand,” said Alex. “So you had nowhere else to go and my father let you stay in his bag.”
“Yes, sir, he did,” said Bobkin. “Only now he’s not here, and since the bag is yours, it’s up to you if we stay or go.”
“We?” Alex questioned. “How many of you are there?”
“There are only three of us here now, but there have been as many as twenty in the past. We live in the room behind the secret door,” said Bobkin, pointing to the far side of the room.
“What secret door?”
“The bookshelf in the far corner,” said Bobkin. “I can show you if you wish.”
“Maybe later,” said Alex, not wanting to be distracted from the conversation.
“And the sanctuary?” Bobkin questioned.
“I suppose you’d better keep it,” said Alex. “I’m sure my father had good reasons for letting you stay, and I won’t go against his wishes.”
“Oh, thank you, sir, thank you,” said Bobkin. “We are forever in your debt, and . . .”
“Well, beggin’ your pardon, sir, but if you’d like some instruction or help with your smithing work, we’d be only too happy to assist you,” Bobkin said in a slightly nervous tone.
“I could use some help,” Alex said, glancing toward the true silver on the table.
“Not many know how to work the true silver,” said Bobkin. “The trick is to heat it slowly. If you put too much heat on it too fast, it hardens even more than it was to start with.”
“Really? That’s not what the book said.”
“I suspect that whoever wrote that book knew more about writing then they did about smithing,” said Bobkin with a snort. “Let me introduce you to my cousins and then we can discuss the art of working true silver.”
Alex nodded, and Bobkin puffed up and let out a long, loud whistle. A moment later, the bookshelf at the back of the smithy moved slightly, and two small figures came hurrying out of the hidden room, one leading the other. They both stopped abruptly at the sight of Alex.
“It’s all right,” Bobkin said, gesturing them forward. “This is Master Joshua’s son and heir. He said we can keep the sanctuary.”
“Thank goodness for that,” said the smitty in the lead.
“Master Alexander Taylor,” said Bobkin. “Let me introduce you to my cousins, Belkin and Dobkin.”
“A great honor,” said Belkin with a bow.
“Dobkin!” Dobkin shouted at the wall.
“Um, well, don’t mind Dobkin,” Bobkin said quickly. “He had a bit of an accident and hasn’t been himself for some time. ’Course, he’s getting better. He remembers his name now.”
“It’s about the only thing he remembers, actually,” Belkin said.
“What happened to him?” Alex questioned.
“We’re not sure,” said Bobkin. “Near as we can tell, he got hit on the head with an anvil.”
“Or maybe a large hammer,” Belkin added.
“Is he all right? I mean, is there anything I can do?” Alex asked.
“Ah, most kind, but Dobkin’s fine, or he will be,” said Bobkin.
“Dobkin!” Dobkin shouted at the table.
“Bobkin’s right. If you set Dobkin to work on something simple, he’ll make a proper job of it,” said Belkin. “I just wish he’d stop shoutin
g his name at everything.”
“Maybe you’d better take Dobkin back to the sanctuary,” Bobkin suggested.
“Do accidents like Dobkin’s happen very often?” Alex questioned as Belkin guided the confused smitty toward the bookshelf.
“No, not often,” Bobkin answered. “And I’m sure Dobkin will come out of it sooner or later.”
“I hope so,” said Alex. “He doesn’t look like he can take care of himself.”
“He’ll be fine—especially under the protection of the sanctuary,” said Bobkin. “Now, about working with true silver.”
Alex was soon deep in discussion with Bobkin about working not only with true silver but also with all kinds of other metals. The smitty was a fountain of information, and Alex had to ask him to slow down once or twice while he got things straight in his mind. Their discussion went on for a long time, and only ended when Alex’s stomach grumbled and he realized how hungry he was.
“I’ll come back and practice as soon as I can,” Alex promised as he prepared to leave.
“Whenever you have time, Master Alex,” said Bobkin with a wave. “We’ll be here, ready and willing to help.”
As soon as Alex left the magic bag and returned to his room, he heard a loud dinging noise and saw a bottle-necked geeb waiting on his desk. The strange bowling-pin-shaped creature balanced on the edge of the table, tilting slightly to one side on its single birdlike leg.