Authors: Bill Allen
The Journals of Myrth
How to Slay a Dragon
How to Save a Kingdom
Bell Bridge Books
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.
To all who believe in Myrth
“Wait, Greg, that’s
Manny up there.”
Greg Hart hadn’t been tardy once this year, but when Kristin Wenslow grabbed his wrist, he couldn’t imagine leaving for class.
Would Mom notice if I never washed my arm again . . . ?
The smell of hyacinths drifted past his nose, and in spite of the fact he was crouched in a flowerbed, Greg truly believed the fragrance was coming from Kristin.
Ahead, Manny Malice and two other bullies loitered on the steps outside the school, tormenting any smaller children who tried to sneak past. It took all of Manny’s attention, since every child was smaller, and Manny had little attention to give.
“I’m not afraid of him,” Greg said, trying unsuccessfully to sound confident. In truth, he placed Manny somewhere between a troll and an ogre in the list of things he’d least like to meet on his way to school, but he didn’t want Kristin to think he was a coward.
Kristin pulled her jacket tight. “Well, you should be. He’s had it out for you since the first grade.”
She stared intently at the steps. Greg stared just as intently at the curve of her cheek. “How’d you know that?”
“What do you mean how? You’ve been sitting across the room from me since Mrs. Dorman’s first grade class, remember?”
“You knew that, too?”
Kristin turned to Greg, confused. “Of course. What do you mean?”
“I-I just didn’t realize you knew who I was back then.”
“Oh, now you’re just being silly.”
Something in her eyes caused Greg to look away. Over on the steps, Manny stole Tommy Ritter’s backpack and began a rousing game of keep-away with his friends. Tommy ran between them, jumping and waving his arms, a frantic version of a mime trapped inside a box. “We need to go,” Greg said. “The first bell’s already rung.”
“Hang on. Manny’s got to go in too, doesn’t he?”
“Do you even know Manny? He’s always late. I’ll bet he’s spent more afternoons in detention than all the other seventh-graders combined.”
“I think you’re exaggerating.”
“Maybe. But I doubt waiting will help.”
As if to spite Greg, Manny tossed Tommy’s backpack in the dirt, and while Tommy ran in circles collecting homework scattered by the breeze, the three bullies ambled inside, laughing.
“See,” said Kristin. “Let’s go.” She grabbed Greg’s wrist again and pulled him toward the stairs. Exhilarated over the touch as much as the danger, Greg let himself be led along the sidewalk and up the steps, passing Tommy Ritter so quickly, the boy spun and nearly dropped his homework again.
“Sorry,” Greg yelled over his shoulder.
He and Kristin burst through the doors and into the school. Not far ahead, Manny was working hard at stuffing a five-foot-tall boy into a three-foot-tall locker. Otherwise, the halls were empty.
Kristin yanked Greg toward a stairwell at the end of the corridor.
They reached the door just as the second bell rang, signaling the start of homeroom. Up the stairs they sprinted, their footsteps echoing loudly in the empty stairwell.
The first landing proved to be no problem, but before they reached the second, a door slammed from above. Greg stopped abruptly, nearly pulling Kristin over backward. There the two waited, listening. Light footsteps started down the stairs above. A woman’s heels. “Teacher,” Kristin whispered.
“Shh,” warned Greg. Getting caught out of class after the bell was bad, but nothing compared to the danger he’d just sensed. His skin began to prickle as the air became charged by a threat far greater than anything of this world.
“Down,” he urged, turning Kristin around and nudging her back the way they’d come. “Go.”
Kristin didn’t argue. The pair fled down the stairwell, two steps at a time, no longer bothering to hide the noise.
“Who’s there?” a woman called. “Is that you, Mr. Malestino? It’ll be suspension for you if I catch you out of class again.”
Kristin rounded the landing and started down the lower flight. Greg hung back, risked a glance over his shoulder. Behind, the air split open, revealing a tiny, unwelcome window in space. Halfway up the stairs, stars floated in a blackness deeper than any Greg had ever seen—unless of course you counted the other four times he’d been faced with this rift between his own planet and the magical world of Myrth.
“Come on, Greg,” said Kristin. “Why are you stopping?”
“Wha—?” Greg couldn’t tear his eyes from the sight, but at least he had the sense to grip the rail. It wouldn’t do to be sucked through that gap.
Thankfully, Kristin couldn’t see from the lower flight. Greg looked between her and the danger. Part of him wanted to flee with her, or for that matter do just about anything with her, but another deeper, far less sensible part longed to know why the rift was here for him again. Whatever he did, he had to do it quickly. “Go on. I’ll catch up.” Kristin hesitated. “What is it, Greg?”
“Go,” he insisted, knowing he was in trouble if she took even one step closer. “I’ll come in a second.”
Reluctantly, Kristin turned and ran. Greg stared back at the hovering tear in space. Not far above, heels clomped down the stairs.
What would he do if one of his teachers rounded the corner and disappeared through that gap?
Then, just as quickly as it opened, the rift zipped up with a flash. A small white envelope remained in its place, suspended in mid-air. It swished back and forth as it dropped to the stairs and landed with a barely audible clap.
The footsteps grew close. Greg snatched up the envelope just as Mrs. Beasley, his math teacher, rounded the corner from the upper landing.
“Mr. Hart. What are you doing out of class?”
Mrs. Beasley was a wretched old woman, Earth’s version of Witch Hazel from Myrth, and the similarity grew when her voice squelched like a series of violin strings being stretched to their limits.
Greg forced a smile. He met her eye as he stuffed the envelope into his pocket.
“Morning, Mrs. Beasley. I’m on my way to homeroom.”
“You’re late. The bell rang just a moment ago. Didn’t you hear?”
“That was the second bell?”
“Yes.” She peered past his shoulder. “Was there someone else with you? I thought I heard another voice.”
Greg didn’t like lying. He thought carefully about his reply. “Well,
here with me.”
Mrs. Beasley frowned. “It’s not like you to be late for class. I don’t believe I’ve seen you in detention all semester.”
“Well, see to it I don’t.”
As long as Greg had known her, Mrs. Beasley had worn a tight bun high atop her head. From it she pulled a pen. Greg wouldn’t have been surprised if she found a pad in there too, but she reached into her pocket for one of those. While she jotted down a note, her wide eyes darted about the stairwell, as if she might still spot the source of that second voice.
Greg silently wondered if her eyes might not be so wide if she wore her bun a tad looser.
“You’re in Mrs. French’s homeroom, aren’t you?” Mrs. Beasley asked.
“Fine. Give her this note, and she won’t give you detention. But if I catch you out in these halls during class again, rest assured, next time I won’t be so nice.”
Greg had no reason to doubt her. He could hardly believe she was being nice this time. “Thank you,” he said, taking the note and stuffing it into his pocket.
“Just get to class, Mr. Hart.” She started down the steps again, not waiting for a reply.
Greg breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes, ma’am.” He turned and ran up the steps two at a time.
“Walk!” Mrs. Beasley called from below. “Hurry, but walk.” Greg forced himself to a slow jog until he heard the stairwell door open and close with a bang. Then he raced up the remaining steps and out into the corridor. He reached Mrs. French’s room a minute later and eased the door open.
Mrs. French was sitting at her desk, rather miraculously reading a newspaper through coke-bottle glasses. He doubted he would need the note Mrs. Beasley gave him. Mrs. French’s hearing was even worse than her eyesight. Then again, he hadn’t counted on Manny Malice coming to her aid.
“Ahem,” Manny said in the worst interpretation of throat-clearing Greg had ever heard.
Mrs. French licked her finger and turned the page of her newspaper.
“AHEM,” Manny tried again, at twice the volume.
Mrs. French blindly patted the desk for her coffee mug. Manny grabbed his seat and hopped about the room, producing a ruckus that couldn’t be missed.
Mrs. French allowed her paper to droop. “Did someone say some—? Oh, Greg. Are you just coming in?”
Greg shot Manny a disgusted look. “Uh, yes, ma’am.”
“Oh, dear. I hope you have a note.”
“Yes,” Greg said. He hurried over to her desk. “Yes, I do.” He reached into his pocket for the note Mrs. Beasley gave him and handed it to Mrs. French, who studied it curiously.
“What’s this? An envelope? How formal.”
Greg’s head snapped up. “What? No—”
But she was already tearing open the letter. She pulled out a single piece of faded parchment and shook it, then lifted her nose to read the page through her thick lenses.
“Hmm, let’s see what we have here . . . This writing is terrible, Greg, just terrible . . .
Dearest Greghart . . .