Authors: Elizabeth Winthrop
FOR THE CASTLE
the author of
The Castle in the Attic
Copyright Â© 1993 by Elizabeth Winthrop
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The battle for the castle / by Elizabeth Winthrop.
p.Â Â Â Â Â Â cm.
Sequel to: The castle in the attic.
Summary: Twelve-year-old William uses the magic token to return, through the toy castle in his attic, to the medieval land of Sir Simon, which is now menaced by a skeleton ship bearing a plague of evil.
[1. CastlesâFiction.Â Â Â 2. Knights and knighthoodâFiction.Â Â Â 3. Space and timeâFiction.Â Â Â 4. Fantasy.]Â Â Â I. Title.
PZ7.W768BatÂ Â Â Â Â Â 1993Â Â Â Â Â Â 92-54490Â Â Â Â Â Â CIPÂ Â Â Â Â Â AC
ISBN-13: 978-0-8234-1010-1 (hardcover)
For all my Williams, both real and imaginary
If we do not redefine manhood, war is inevitable.
Each book has its own special circle of friends and supporters. For this one I would like to thank Keith McDaniels and Jan Perkins, who listened patiently while I struggled with the underpinnings of this story. Thanks to Frank DeCrescenzo, who told me how he “jumped the trains.” And to Henry Chapin, for his insightful meditations on the ways and the history of fools. Tom Hart's knowledge of bicycles was invaluable.
Margery Cuyler is an enthusiastic and persevering editor. Without her unflagging encouragement, this book truly would not have been written. And last but never least, thanks to Alison Cragin Herzig, who helps me find my way back to the path whenever I wander astray.
FOR THE CASTLE
“They sure move fast, don't they?” William said as the freight train barreled down the track toward them.
Jason nodded. “It looks that way from here. But they slow up as they come into the station.” The whistle blew and the engineer waved at the two boys as he swept past. “See, he's braking now,” Jason yelled over the roar of the passing cars. “That's the trick. You start running alongside as soon as the engineer puts on the brakes. That way you're in the rhythm of it when you grab the ladder and swing yourself up. It's all in the timing.”
Timing, William thought. At least he knew about that from gymnastics. Timing, balance, flexibility. He had all those. But he was still a shrimp. He and Jason used to be the same size but in the last year, his best
friend had grown a foot. What if I can't even reach the ladder? William thought. Or worse, what if I'm not strong enough to pull myself up? I'll just be dragged along like a sack of potatoes until I fall off.
“See, here come the boxcars,” Jason called. “They have a ladder at each end. I'll grab the first and you get the second.”
William tried to look happy about all this, but deep down he had a weird feeling in his stomach. They'd been waiting their whole lives to jump the trains. They'd always sworn they'd do it together. Next Saturday was the day because it fell on the first weekend after William's twelfth birthday.
Jumping the trains. It meant you ran along next to the train, grabbed the ladder on the side of a boxcar, scrambled over the top of the car, and threw yourself off the other side before the train picked up speed at the far end of Southbrook station. Jumping the trains was a rite of passage for all the boys in town. You did it when you turned twelve. Nobody knew who started it and nobody could figure out how to stop it. The school principal gave speeches about how dangerous it was, and for a while, the police and the parents set up patrols along the tracks to keep the kids from doing it. But nothing worked. If you hadn't jumped the trains by the time you were thirteen, you were nobody.
William glanced at his friend. Ever since Jason got
that new mountain bike for his birthday in March, he'd changed. Jason the piano player and the champion parakeet trainer and the first guy in their class to get glasses and William's best friend had suddenly turned into a bike freak and a muscleman. He trained every day. He had all the right equipmentâthe special black helmet, the riding gloves, a little tool kit that fit under the seat. After school he put on some really weird-looking black shiny shorts and pedaled off on some long course he'd worked out with his father. Jason's father was an exercise nut. Some days they went twenty miles, and more on the weekends. Then they came home and did a hundred sit-ups or something. Whenever Jason had a chance, he showed William his muscles.
“So, it's a deal,” Jason said. “We meet here next Saturday morning.” He stuck out his hand and William shook it solemnly. Then Jason gave a little whoop and punched him on the shoulder. “We're finally going to jump the trains. And man, we're ready for it. I've got all my biking muscles and you're in great shape. After all, you've been doing gymnastics since you were six years old.”
“Yeah, and I'm about to quit.”
They headed back toward their bikes. “You've been talking about quitting for ages,” Jason said.
“This time I mean it,” William said. “I don't like
this new woman who's coaching the team. Most of the other guys have already given up.”
“What would you do instead?”
“I don't know,” William said. That was the problem. He hated baseball. He was much too short for basketball. Track seemed really boring. At least in gymnastics he was still a star.
“You'd be dumb to quit,” Jason said as he lifted his bike and twirled the wheels a couple of times. “You're the best one at floor routines. Everybody says so.”
“Yeah, but they think gymnastics is wimpy.”
Jason grinned. “Wimpy? Why don't they try it?” William had once tried to teach Jason a simple front walkover in the living room. After six tries, Jason had finally flipped his legs to the other side, but in the process, he'd knocked over his mother's favorite lamp. “Definitely not my sport,” was all he'd said as they swept the broken china into the dustpan. In those days, Jason didn't have a sport. But he sure does now, William thought as he watched his friend checking the gears on his twenty-one-speed bike.
They started off together, but as usual Jason pulled ahead on the long hill above the train station. He waited at the top for William to catch up.
“That old bike of yours is a joke,” Jason said. “I hope your parents get you a new one for your birthday.”
William took a minute to catch his breath before
answering. “Me too. Dad just signed the contract to design a new housing development so they're feeling okay about money.”
“Did you take him to the bike store and show him the one we picked out?” Jason asked.
“We went yesterday after school,” William said. “He didn't understand why I needed such a fancy bike.”
“It'll last a long time. And it's got the thicker tires if we want to go off-road, but it's light enough to take the hills easily. You know, Dad signed me up for a two-week biking trip in Nova Scotia in July,” Jason added. “If you get your bike and start a regular training program, you'd be in shape to go too. That would be great.”
“You never told me you were doing that,” William said.
Jason shrugged. “Dad came up with the idea last week. He went on some camping trip to Nova Scotia when he was a kid, so now he wants me to do it.”
“How's the great Ping-Pong war?” William asked.
“Dad's ahead by two games but I'm catching up.” For six months, Jason and his father had been playing Ping-Pong in their basement every night. They kept track of all the games on a blackboard on the wall.
“You headed home?” William asked when they pulled up to the four-way light at Trafalgar.
“No. I think I'll do the course around the reservoir
now,” Jason said. “That'll get me up to thirty miles for today.”
“Don't forget my birthday dinner Friday night. I've got gymnastics practice that day so I'm busy till five.”
“Right,” Jason said. “Maybe I'll come watch your practice.”
“What?” William asked. “And give up some training time?”
“I like that new coach. She's pretty even though she's got fat legs.”
Jason had begun to talk about girls and the way they looked. It made William feel weird.
“Gymnasts need strong legs,” he said as Jason pulled away.
Jason waved good-bye, then hunkered his body down into racing position and began to pump his way up Trafalgar to the reservoir.
When William came in the kitchen door, his mother was on the phone. “Yes, Mrs. Roberts,” she was saying. “I know it's his third ear infection this year. Sometimes these things just settle in. Keep him on the antibiotics and bring him in first thing Monday.” Pause. “No, that's really not necessaryÂ .Â .Â .”
He poured himself a bowl of cereal. His mother waved at him, made an apologetic face at the phone, and then pointed to something on the kitchen table.
“It's your birthday present from Mrs. Phillips,” she whispered with her hand over the receiver. Then she went back to little Harry Roberts's ear infections.
Mrs. Phillips had taken care of William from the day he was born until she moved back to England to live with her brother two years ago. She always sent good presents. This one was small, the size of a pack of cards, and it was wrapped in shiny brown-striped paper. She had printed his full name, William Edward Lawrence, in big block letters that filled up the label. One corner was covered in purple stamps with pictures of the queen on them. In the other corner, down near the bottom, it said,
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL. DO NOT OPEN BEFORE MAY
He picked up the package and shook it. Not a sound. Mrs. Phillips was a careful wrapper. He put it down again and studied it while he ate his cereal.
His mother hung up the phone. “Bet you wish you had X-ray vision,” she said. “What do you think it is?”
“It's pretty small.”
“Maybe,” William said, but he didn't think so. Mrs. Phillips wouldn't send him something as boring as that. Not for his twelfth birthday. He tipped his bowl up and slurped down the last of the milk. His mother glared at him but she made no comment.
“I'm meeting your father in town,” she said. “We'll be back in a couple of hours.”
“Wouldn't you like me to come along?” teased William. He was pretty sure they were going to buy his birthday present.
“No, thanks,” she said. “Not this time. Remember, no more handstands against the living room wall or else.”
“I know, I know. Or else I'll have to clean off the footprints myself. Listen, Mom, you should be glad I don't do handstands in sneakers. Or that I didn't try to teach Jason front walkovers in