The Madness Project (The Madness Method)

BOOK: The Madness Project (The Madness Method)
11.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub








Book One of
The Madness Method





J. Leigh Bralick





Copyright © 2013 by J. Leigh Bralick




All Rights Reserved.




ISBN-13: 978-1492857723

ISBN: 1492857726





In loving memory of William Bralick, Sr. and Caroline













About the







“The most natural, and, consequently,

the truest and most intense of human affections

are those which arise in the heart as if by electric


Edgar Allan Poe,
“The Spectacles.”









Chapter 1 — Prince Tarik, Age 5


I’d never ridden a train before, and I’d never seen the
sea.  In the summer when I was five, the great steam beast carried Mother and
Father and me to the port city of Ridgemark to see the newest ship in Father’s
fleet.  All around us, sailors and officers in great big hats and brass-studded
coats swarmed the docks, their shouts carrying over the creak of ropes and the
cry of gulls.  The wood planks stank of salt and fish, and men with mops and
brooms scrubbed and scrubbed, but they couldn’t drive away the smell.

My nanny sniffed, pressing a lace kerchief to her nose until
she saw that my mother didn’t bother.  We stood side by side watching the
endless blue sea, dazzling under a warmer sun than we ever saw in Brinmark.  I
fidgeted and craned my neck, trying to see the little tug boats and the
seabirds that swooped at the trawlers’ decks.  Finally Nana relented and led me
along the quay wall.  I wanted to walk on top of the low stones, but my guard
Zagger would never let me—or even if he did, Nana would surely kill him.  He
stayed a few steps behind me, tall and silent in his long black trencher,
grumbling every time I stepped too close to the wall.

“Do you see that, Your Highness?” Nana asked, nodding toward
the dock.  “That’s the new steamship.”

I frowned up at the huge ship looming in its berth, a
floating blue and white fortress so big it made its own clouds. 

“What are those red tubes for?” I asked, and counted them
off, one to five.

“Those are called funnels.  It’s how the steam gets out of
the engines.”

The cool wind sent the steam coiling toward us, smelling of
burnt coal and paint.  As we walked toward the huge ship, I watched the sailors
hurrying around the wharf, some in loose green shirts and billowing pants, some
in smart white Naval uniforms.  I thought I looked just like the Navy sailors,
in my crisp white shorts and shirt and blue-striped tie.  A knot of them moved
aside as we passed, tipping their hats to me.  I tipped mine back until Nana
rebuked me.

“A prince doesn’t tip his hat to the ratings,” she said.

“I think they’re swell.”

She clucked.  “Delightful.  Or possibly admirable.  Not
Your Highness.  That’s a vulgar word.”

“Admirable,” I mumbled, and thought it an ugly word. 

I glanced back at Zagger and made a face.  He grinned, until
Nana turned and he blushed.  He towered over her, and I thought he must be as
strong as twenty other men, but my nanny could make any man blush when she glared.

“Will they sail the ship?” I asked Nana.

I tried to tug out of her grip again, but her hand was a
vice on my arm, the lace of her glove scratching my bare skin.

“Not today,” she said.  Her mouth puckered in a little
frown.  “There’s a bad wind blowing.”

“What’s a bad wind?  I thought the steamship didn’t need the
wind,” I said, proud to remember what my best friend Griff’s father had told
me.  Griff’s father was the Defense Minister.  That wasn’t as important as
being the King, but I never told Griff that.

“They won’t sail in this wind, no matter what.”  Nana let go
of my hand to settle her little round hat on her head, because the naughty wind
had nearly blown it off.  “It’s not natural.”

With my hand free, I took my chance and bolted to the wall. 
Zagger swore and Nana whacked him with her parasol and sent him running after

“Your Highness, please come down off that wall!” he called. 
“Don’t make me pull you down.”

I laughed and skipped away from him, watching the foam of
the waves slap the slimy stones far down below.  The wind picked up, and I
stood still.  All around me the air twisted and moved, creeping about like a
living thing.  It snaked around my ankles, and circled round my neck.  Fingers
of wind tangled my hair, pushing my head.  Pushing me forward…

“Zagger!” I shrieked.

The wind unleashed against me and I stumbled, and Zagger’s
arms flashed around me, pulling me away from the wall, away from the wind.  I
clung to him.  He didn’t set me down but brought me back to Nana, who tsked and
scolded, her words blurred with tears. 

I twisted about in Zagger’s arms, wild for a glimpse of
Mother and Father, desperate to see they hadn’t been stolen away by the wind. 
Some of the guards had drawn in close around them, keeping Mother from running
to me.  But Father didn’t seem to care about the weather.  He was a great tall
man, fine in his naval uniform with its row upon row of ribbons and medals,
scowling a scowl that could silence the strongest winds.  Nothing could scare
him.  I lifted my chin, because I could be just as brave. 

I squirmed and Zagger set me down, but he didn’t let go of
my shoulder till he’d looked me long and hard in the eye.  I edged a bit
further inland under that stare, shying away from the wall.

“Is the wind magic?” I whispered.

“What do you know of magic?” Nana asked, sharp.

“Griff told me all about the Jixies.”  I bit my tongue when
I almost told her about Griff’s friend, because Griff had said it was supposed
to be a secret.  I would never tell a secret, not like Griff.  Instead I tossed
my head, saying,  “He told me some of them can change the winds.”

She drew herself up.  I imagined horns and wings sprouting
all over her, and fire coming from her nose. 

“That’s quite enough talk of Jixies, Your Highness!  Magic
is not a topic of polite conversation, and you’d do well to remind young Master
Farro of that. 
Miss Von.  I know how the three of you go on.”

“But Samyr doesn’t—”

She tutted and held up a finger.  “No
, Your
Highness.  It’s not becoming.”

My father beckoned to us then, so I didn’t get to argue with
her any more.  We joined him and Mother just as the biggest man I’d ever seen
marched up to meet us. 

“Captain,” my father’s chief guard said.  “What’s your

The captain saluted smartly to my father, brass buttons
glinting.  A hundred wrinkles lined his face and a bushy red mustachio, stiff
with wax, blanketed his lips.  He didn’t wear a naval uniform like my father,
because he captained a passenger ship that carried people all around the world.

“Your Majesty,” he said, “please accept my deepest
apologies, but I’m afraid we’re not going to put to sea this morning.  The
maiden voyage will have to be postponed.  The wind…the wind’s not behaving.” 
His mustache twitched, and his eyes shifted down to me.  “You’ll understand why
I say no more.  The Ridgemark police are searching the area.”

I glanced at Nana and thought she looked rather smug to be
proved right.  My father held up his hand and the captain saluted and
retreated, while the guards closed in around us. 

It had to be magic.  The silly captain couldn’t really think
I wouldn’t figure it out.  I tugged free from Nana and ran to my mother.

“Are there Jixies here?” I whispered.  “Jixy Winds?”

“Nonsense, Tarik.  What a thing to suggest!  Come along.”

She took my hand and I jumped, because when she touched me,
a little fuzzy prickle chased up my arm.  She froze, her face turning terribly

“What’s wrong, darling?” she asked, crouching beside me, her
sea-green hat shading my eyes from the sun.  “Are you well?”

Nana stopped at my shoulder, but Mother shot her and Zagger
a stern glance, sending them away where they couldn’t hear us.

“What’s wrong with the child?” my father asked.

“It’s nothing, love,” she said.  “Leave him to me.”

“When you touched my hand, it felt so odd,” I said after
Father had left with his guards.  I rubbed my palms.  “Like little ants
crawling around inside.”

I’d never seen sadness like the sadness that filled her
eyes.  But she simply kissed my head and took my hand, and together we returned
to the train.  My father waited for us outside the passenger car with his chief
guard close by his shoulder.

“There must be more than just one out there,” the guard told
him as we arrived.

“The boy doesn’t need to hear this nonsense.  Carry on.” 
The guard withdrew and my father smiled down at me, ruffling my hair.  “Did you
like the steamship?”

“It was enormous!” I said.  “And it smelled.  I loved it.”

He laughed and stepped onto the train, and we all followed
him aboard.  The engineer didn’t make us wait.  I suppose my father’s guards
told him to drive the train home that very minute, because as soon as we were
on, the doors shut and the whistle blew, and the floor shifted and swayed
beneath my feet.  The train station crept away, and the seaside swept away, and
we came into the rolling hills and the inland rain.

We had the whole passenger car to ourselves.  Mother and
Father sat in the plush velvet seats to one side, a heavy curtain falling
across half the door of the booth.  Nana knitted stockings in the rear of the
car, and Zagger sat with Father’s guard detail at a table across from her. 
Father’s guards were all so much older and crosser than Zagger, but I knew he
felt important to sit with them, so I didn’t mind even if it left me all

I took out the wooden steamship Griff’s father had given me
and lay on my belly under the window bench, setting the boat to sail on the
vast waters of the plush carpet.  I imagined I was a ship’s captain, with a big
black mustachio and a fearsome scar skipping right over my eye.

My face tingled.

I leaned my head on my arm and whistled like the wind as my
boat crested massive waves.  A mirror-like band of steel along the bottom of
the cabin wall reflected my ship, so I sent the steamer on a collision course
with the enemy boat…

…And saw my own face.

I had a big black mustachio, and a fearsome scar skipping
right over my eye.

My teeth chattered.  I peered closer, and the mustachioed
face peered closer.  I pulled away, and the scarred face pulled away.  With one
hand I clutched my steamship, and with the other I tugged on the ends of the
black whiskers.  They were real.  I had real whiskers, just like a grown-up

“Mummy,” I whispered, and backed out from under the bench. 
I scampered across the aisle and ducked past the red velvet curtain.  “Papa,
look!  I’m a man!”

Mother clapped a hand over her mouth, turning terribly pale.

“What the devil!” Father hissed, squinting at me through a
scowl black as thunder.  His hand gripped my shoulder and he pulled me toward
him, taking my chin in his other hand.  “What the devil!  What is this

“I did it,” I said, confused.  Why was he so angry?

He released my chin.  I breathed out, but too soon.  All at
once, his hand flashed out and struck me in the face.  I stumbled, falling
against my mother’s legs.  The world blurred and rocked, and my face stung like
a nest of bees.  He’d never hit me before.  Never.  My father wouldn’t do

Mother pulled me into her lap, covering my face.


She said it so quietly I barely heard her.  I peeked at my
father, but the anger twisting his face terrified me.  He said nothing, only
stared at Mother, while Mother stared at him, hardly breathing.  Her hands
turned to ice.

BOOK: The Madness Project (The Madness Method)
11.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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