Read The London Pride Online

Authors: Charlie Fletcher

Tags: #Children's Books, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy & Magic, #Children's eBooks, #Science Fiction; Fantasy & Scary Stories

The London Pride

BOOK: The London Pride
6.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

www.hodderchildrens.co.uk

The story so far …

In the British Museum, Bast, an ancient Egyptian goddess, has been accidentally freed from thousands of years of frozen captivity. In revenge, she has cast a spell, freezing all the normal people in London.

Only a brother and sister, Will and Jo, have escaped her magic.

The statues of London are alive and moving, divided into human ones (Spits), and non-human ones like animals, gargoyles and especially dragons (Taints). Some Spits have helped Jo and Will, and have just paid the price by being frozen like the people of London.

Bast has sent the dragons after Will and Jo …

1
Running scared

Two children were running away from the British Museum as fast as possible, which was not as fast as either would have liked, because of Jo’s old injury. She hobble-ran as fast as she could, but her brother Will could see that her leg hurt badly. He kept his eye out for a bicycle or a shopping trolley they could use as a wheelchair, but though the dark streets were full of unmoving people, all he had found so far were a rack of city-bikes for hire, solidly locked in place, and useless to them.

He was trying not to think how horrible it was to be the only mobile things in the eerie, magical freeze-frame that the city had become. The empty sensation in the pit of his stomach made him feel like if he let go he might just fall into himself and disappear. This shaky connection with reality wasn’t helped by the fact that they were running in company with Little Tragedy – a small bronze boy – and a large marble dog, Filax.

Jo stumbled to a stop and hung onto a railing outside a house in the middle of a long terrace of Georgian buildings running down one side of the street. She had a stitch, and her leg was hurting badly.

‘Just give me a minute,’ she said.

They looked up and down the road. Brick and stucco houses stretched away on one side. On the other, a white stone Art Deco building loomed over them.
LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE
was carved above the door. Although the streetlamps were not lit, there was a light on in a building opposite, and the strange golden ornaments on the black ironwork outside the windows caught it and glinted down at them: snakes, rats, massive mosquitoes and huge bugs that looked like giant ticks and were the size of hubcaps.

‘That’s creepy,’ panted Jo. Biology was one of her favourite subjects at school. She wanted to be a vet. ‘A giant bedbug.’

‘No dragons though,’ said Will. ‘You OK?’

‘Yeah,’ she lied. ‘I don’t mind running … but do we know where we’re running to?’

Will shrugged. He didn’t. And that was the problem. He knew they had to do something, that they needed a plan. He just didn’t know what it was.

‘Will,’ said Jo. ‘We’re just thrashing, aren’t we?’

He knew what she meant. ‘Thrashing’ was what you did when you were losing in a video game as the level got too hard, and you just began flailing around wildly. Thrashing was almost always what happened just before you got killed. But this wasn’t a video game. There was no automatic ‘saved game’ to reboot to. This was real.

He reached over and squeezed her hand. At first she looked surprised. Then she squeezed it back.

‘Leg’s bad, isn’t it?’ he said.

‘Like someone’s hitting it with a hammer,’ she admitted.

She almost never talked about her pain. So when she did, Will knew it was serious. He needed to get her somewhere to rest. But the moment of contact with her skin, which was warm, reminded him of the frozen people. They were not only frozen in the sense of not moving, they were beginning to get cold.

Initially, when they had tried to move their mother, she had been immobile but warm. Now the people around them were chilled. And knowing his mother was out there, unmoving and cold as stone, froze something inside him too. This wasn’t the time to thrash. This was the time to get their heads straight.

He was about to say this when Filax braced himself and growled a warning, the shaggy fur on his shoulders bristling into a ruff as he did so.

2
Bast the Mighty

Bast the Mighty, Bast the Huntress, Bast the so-nearly-Omnipotent that she had frozen almost an entire city, making its citizens look like mere statues, had a nasty feeling that she was, at this precise moment, also dangerously close to being Bast the Ridiculous.

She shouldn’t feel like this. She had taken swift revenge on the city’s soldier-statues when they had tried to assault her stronghold in the British Museum in an attempt to break her spell. The military statues had helped Will, the only unfrozen boy in London, to rescue Jo, who had been – until Bast stopped her moving – the only unfrozen girl. They’d been shielded from Bast’s magic because they wore matching friendship bracelets with beads carved like scarab beetles on them – which just happened to be ancient protective amulets. Bast’s curse had detonated a blast-wave of pure blue light, radiating out from the museum and paralysing and punishing every uniformed statue in the city, so they were now as unmoving as the people. The force of her magic was terrifyingly strong.

And yet there she was; Bast – mightiest Bast, Lion Goddess, Protector of Pharaohs, Defender of the Sun God, The Lady of Flame and Eye of Ra – shivering on top of a forty-foot pole, skinny and weak, looking just like any old house cat stuck up a tree in someone’s back garden.

Except it wasn’t a tree, it was a totem pole. And it wasn’t in a back garden, it was in the Central Courtyard of the British Museum. Yet it was a humiliating position for any self-respecting feline, let alone an ancient goddess wakened after millennia of imprisonment inside the bronze form of an ear- and nose-ringed cat.

She was not shivering with fear. She had won the battle. But doing so cost her. The setting of a curse drained what strength she had and made her groggy. Magic uses muscles too, hidden and secret muscles of the mind. It was like going for a run after a long time of taking no exercise at all. She ached. Her head hurt. She coughed as if she was trying to clear an immovable furball. She had the heart of a lioness, the most feared of all the hunters in Africa, deadlier by far than the male. And yet all she wanted to do was put aside her anger, curl up and sleep.

And that made Bast the Mighty mighty angry.

HURRY UP AND GET ME DOWN FROM HERE, she growled.

Two black basalt statues of lion-women were climbing up the totem pole, gingerly using the noses, beaks and grimacing mouths of the carved faces as fingerholds as they pulled themselves towards her.

It was humiliating. One of her claws was stuck fast in the dense old wood, driven deep in like a nail. The lion-women would have to pull it out and free her. She would have revenge for this.

No one embarrasses a god.

Not without suffering the most horrible revenge.

Not without suffering it for a very long time. And not without it being the kind of revenge that is spoken of in terror for generations after it is over.

Bast the Humiliated watched her servants haul their human bodies up the redwood pole and noted how they kept their lion heads tilted away from her, unwilling to look at her current state, in case they should themselves be punished simply for having witnessed it.

Their fear gave her a small flicker of strength and satisfaction.

HURRY UP, she said. I MUST REGATHER MY STRENGTH. I HAVE A NEW WORLD TO CONQUER. AND TO REMOVE AL OBSTACLES TO MY SUCCESS, THERE IS A BOY AND A GIRL WHO MUST FIRST BE ERASED FROM IT!

3
To the rescue

Jo, Will and Little Tragedy peered nervously down the street at whatever had got Filax’s attention. It was empty of cars, though there was a bus stuck halfway round a turn, angling into a side junction and blocking their view of whatever was beyond it. Will was about to wonder out loud what the dog was growling at, when Filax barked, two deep warning sounds that rumbled out of his deep chest and seemed to shake the ground beneath their feet. Then they heard a wailing noise like a broken siren and saw fragments of movement through the side windows of the bus: something – or things – were coming up the street behind it at speed, but before they could move or even think of hiding they saw it was three dark men running towards them, and right behind was something altogether bigger and more thunderous.

The men were wearing steel helmets, and for a happy fragment of a second Will thought that the soldier-statues must have been freed from the cat’s curse and were moving again, but as the black metal figures came close he recognised them as firemen from the memorial at St Paul’s, the ones who had used their hoses to make the Ghost Church out of nothing but water and light and the memory of the absent building that had been bombed to nothingness in the Great Blitz. But before he could process that disappointment his attention was taken by the great thundering contraption that appeared to be chasing them.

Four galloping bronze horses careered round the back of the bus, pulling a huge high-sided chariot. One of the two wheels came off the ground as it made the corner, and then smacked back onto the tarmac with a mighty crash.

As it hurtled towards them it became clear that the wailing noise was not some kind of faulty warning siren but the yells of a bare-chested bronze boy who was holding the reins and thus – in theory – driving the thing. From the fact that he seemed to be shouting a frenzied, non-stop ‘Whoa!’ without any visible slowing of the charging horses, it was clear that events had run away with him; the horses were in charge and he was just in the chariot as a kind of noisy hood-ornament.

However, when the firemen skidded to a stop in front of them, the horses did follow suit, so that the whole running bunch suddenly stacked up nose-to-nose with Filax, who – Will noticed – didn’t budge an inch.

‘That dog there safe?’ asked the lead fireman.

‘Safe as pie,’ said Tragedy with a relieved grin, though he didn’t say why pie should be particularly safe. ‘Wotcher, Quad!’

He waved at the boy with the reins, who was dragging himself back into the chariot, having been thrown nearly clean out of his precarious cockpit by the sudden halt of his horses. He grinned and waved back, a smile much like Tragedy’s cracking his face.

BOOK: The London Pride
6.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

SVH06-Dangerous Love by Francine Pascal
Southern Attraction by Tracy Kauffman
Harmony by Marjorie B. Kellogg
Solitary: A Novel by Travis Thrasher
Hunt Me by Shiloh Walker
SHIVER by Tiffinie Helmer
Before You Sleep by Adam L. G. Nevill
The Ward by Dusty Miller