Read The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown Online

Authors: Adam Jay Epstein,Andrew Jacobson

Tags: #Fantasy, #Fiction, #General, #Body; Mind & Spirit, #Magick Studies

The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown

BOOK: The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown
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The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown
The Familiars [2]
Adam Jay Epstein Andrew Jacobson
HarperCollins (2011)
Rating:
★★★★☆
Tags:
Fantasy, Fiction, General, Body; Mind Spirit, Magick Studies

When human magic disappears suddenly from Vastia, it falls on the familiars, Aldwyn the telekinetic cat, Skylar the know-it-all blue, jay, and Gilbert the gullible tree frog--to find the Crown of the Snow Leopard, an ancient relic that can reverse the curse.  They learn that the only way to do this is by following in the purple paw prints of Aldwyn's father, who'd gone missing while searching for the Crown years earlier. This magical spirit trail extends into the Beyond, where our heroes encounter new enemies and danger, while Aldwyn learns about his mysterious past.

Full of high-flying adventure and heartwarming friendships, SECRETS OF THE CROWN shows how great it is to be familiar with The Familiars!

About the Author

Adam Jay Epstein spent his childhood in Great Neck, New York, while Andrew Jacobson grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the two met in Los Angeles. They have been writing together for film and television ever since.

One day, Adam asked Andrew, "Are you familiar with what a familiar is?" And from that simple question, Vastia was born, a fantastical world filled with the authors' shared love of animals and magic. This is the second book in The Familiars series. The adventure continues in book three,
Circle of Heroes
.

Adam Jay Epstein lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jane, and their daughters, Penny and Olive. Andrew Jacobson, his wife, Ashley, their son, Ryder, and their dog, Elvis, live close by.

The Familiars
will be produced for film by Sam Raimi and Sony Animation.

Dedication

 

For my dad, my biggest fan and best friend.

For Olive, my daughter, this story is for you.

– A.J.E.

 

For my mom and dad, who set the path I follow every day.

– A. J.

 

Aldwyn had often wondered what it would feel like to have wings. As the wind blew through his whiskers and his claws dug into the linen collar of Jack’s tunic, he was beginning to get a pretty good idea. Led by Jack’s outstretched wand, loyal and familiar were soaring above the treetops, climbing higher and higher towards the clouds. Back in his Bridgetower days, before he had become the magical animal companion to a boy wizard, Aldwyn used his claws to scale the rooftops and chimneys of some of the city’s tallest buildings. But having his fur graze the needles at the top of the mighty pine trees in the Palace Hills was something different altogether.

“We’re about to get wet!” exclaimed Jack.

Aldwyn braced himself as they blasted straight through a puff of white, sending rain pixies scattering in every direction. The tiny cloud fairies sprayed water with every flap of their wings, drenching the black-and-white cat’s fur within seconds.

“Guess we won’t be needing baths tonight,” he shouted at Jack.

Bursting through the cloud right behind them was Jack’s older sister, Marianne, gripping a wand of her own.

“Not bad,” she called out, “for a beginner.”

She flicked her wrist and made an upside-down loop in the air before coming up alongside her brother. Gilbert’s bulging orange eyes peeked out over the edge of Marianne’s shirt pocket, his webbed hands clutching on for dear life.

“Was that really necessary?” croaked the tree frog in a panic.

Jack used his free hand to brush the dirty blond hair out of his eyes, revealing a determined look beneath.

“Come on, sis,” he hollered as if he had something to prove. “I’ll race you back to the manor steps.”

The young wizard siblings darted downwards. Aldwyn felt his stomach do a little somersault as they hurtled through the air at an alarming speed. Dipping below the clouds once more, the grandness of the Vastian countryside opened up below them. Nearby, Aldwyn could make out Sorceress Edna’s Black Ivy Manor, a regal estate surrounded by hedge walls and rose gardens. Beyond the manor was an invisible dam that held back the heavy waters of a mountain river. Through the enchanted barrier’s sheer surface, fish could be seen swimming, as if a giant aquarium had been built into the side of the rocky peaks. At the base of the dam lay the grazing fields of Edna’s fabled short-horned steers, whose silver-hued hides were tough enough to resist even a dragon’s fiery breath. Further down the hill was Bronzhaven, with Queen Loranella’s palace rising into the sky at its centre, surrounded by the floating torches that hovered just above the castle walls.

Marianne had jumped ahead to an early lead, but Jack was quickly catching up. The two raced past Dalton and Skylar, who were practising precise hairpin turns around floating wooden cones. Dalton, the eldest – at fourteen and a half – and maturest of the children, called out, “Sorceress Edna instructed us to work on mid-flight reversals!”

“Slow down,” added Skylar. “You’re not competing on the Warlock Trail, you know.”

But neither Jack nor Marianne paid the boy or his blue jay familiar any attention. They were too focused on outpacing each other.

“Woo-hoo!” shouted Jack, as he pulled in front of his sister by a wand’s length.

As they skimmed lower, they approached the living topiaries that guarded the outside of Black Ivy Manor. These enchanted shrubs had been sculpted less than a month ago to protect the teaching grounds, a precaution of great import now that Sorceress Edna had taken over the training of Kalstaff’s three pupils and their familiars. The topiaries had been shaped like archers holding thorny bows at the ready. They swung their weapons from left to right, preparing to fire upon any unwelcome intruders.

“Short cut through those columns,” suggested Aldwyn from over Jack’s shoulder.

Jack nodded, then barrel-rolled between two marble pillars on the edge of the estate’s reflecting pool. The manoeuvre increased his and Aldwyn’s lead over Marianne and Gilbert and seemed to make their victory to the steps inevitable. That is, until Marianne invoked, “Creeping vine, possum tail, make Jack move, like a snail!”

Suddenly, it felt to Aldwyn as if the air around him had got thick and gooey like molasses. He and Jack found themselves slowed to a near crawl. Marianne zipped past them and landed on the outdoor stairs leading to the manor’s back door. Gilbert immediately jumped from her pocket and began kissing the ground.

“Ah, the sweet taste of gravel,” said the tree frog, pressing his lips to the earth.

“Gilbert, aren’t you being a little dramatic?” asked Marianne.

“Not fair,” cried Jack, still inching forward in slow motion. “You cheated.”

“You could have countered the spell,” replied Marianne. “I don’t remember anyone making a rule about no castings.”

Jack’s feet finally touched down, and Aldwyn leaped off his back. Marianne walked over to her little brother and gave his hair a ruffle.

“Next time,” she said with a wink as Dalton and Skylar landed beside her.

“Thanks for the pointers, Sky. I think I’m finally mastering those turns,” said Dalton to his winged familiar.

“Just remember, birds always keep their eyes on the horizon. I’d recommend the same for you.”

As the familiars and their loyals continued their friendly banter, Sorceress Edna rose from her chair beneath the shade of a canopy and came towards them. She was a plump, middle-aged woman with hair dyed black and a pair of oversized spectacles. Her familiar, a mink named Stolix, was wrapped round her neck. Edna took short little steps like a penguin, sending splashes of blueberry tea from the top of her porcelain cup. And though her appearance would suggest otherwise, she was a formidable magician indeed.

“Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy,” she said in a high-pitched, nasal voice. “At this age, your wand flight should be much more advanced. Tonight I want all of you to reread
Crady’s Book of Aerial Wizardry
cover to cover.”

Jack groaned. “But you said we could—”

“Another word out of you, young man,” warned Edna, “and Stolix will put you in muscle stasis.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Jack apologetically.

Stolix snapped her head to attention and exhaled what looked like steamy breath on a cold day. The vapours travelled straight for Jack’s nostrils, disappearing into his nose and tightening his muscles into a temporary paralysed state.

“Stolix!” scolded Edna. “What in Vastia did you do that for?”

“You said ‘another word’,” replied the mink. Aldwyn knew that Stolix was a powerful and dedicated familiar, but she definitely wasn’t the brightest. Edna shook her head.

Despite Jack’s pained expression, Aldwyn knew his loyal would be back to his old self in no time. In the few short weeks of their tutelage here, all of the loyals and familiars, except for Skylar of course, had experienced Stolix’s punishment. Just yesterday, Aldwyn had been immobilised after accidentally knocking over one of Edna’s prized crystal dining glasses while playing telekinetic catch in the house. And while the sensation of having every muscle in your body tighten, even for only thirty seconds, was excruciatingly unpleasant, fortunately the spell did no permanent damage.

With as little warning as they had come, the vapours that had slithered up Jack’s nostrils wafted out of them, and the boy’s body relaxed again. He clenched his fists and shook it off.

“You’ll have to forgive Stolix,” said Edna. “She has become a bit pea-brained in her old age. Anyway, better get your wits back about you.” She turned her attention to the group. “Now, for the next part of your wand-flight training, I’ll be adding a new challenge. The skies won’t be yours alone. You need to be able to face danger in the air as easily as you do on the ground. Especially if you wish to have any chance of defeating Paksahara.”

Paksahara.
The name gave Aldwyn the chills. It had been four weeks since he, Gilbert and Skylar had faced Queen Loranella’s traitorous familiar in the dungeon of the Sunken Palace. The shape-shifting hare had come very close to killing both the loyals and the familiars, and had it not been for Aldwyn’s fortuitous discovery of his telekinetic abilities, she would have done just that. But even though the familiars had prevailed, Paksahara had managed to escape, and nothing had been heard from her since. Aldwyn could only imagine what new evils she had been plotting.

“And, familiars, your assistance will be helpful too,” added Edna.

Although Queen Loranella had told Edna that Aldwyn, Skylar and Gilbert were the Prophesised Three, the plump sorceress didn’t seem to believe it. She still held to the old belief that familiars were second rate in their abilities compared to human wizards. Aldwyn couldn’t really blame her; he himself still had trouble believing that he, a former alley cat who never dreamed he had even a whisker of magic, was destined to save all of Vastia. Aldwyn was just happy to know that the next time he and his fellow familiars faced Paksahara, they wouldn’t be alone: Jack, Marianne and Dalton would be beside them to protect them with their years of wizard training and magical prowess.

Sorceress Edna dumped her tea on the ground and magically reshaped her cup into a porcelain piccolo. She brought the instrument to her lips and blew a melodic call. The sound echoed in the air.

“You’ll have five minutes to cage them,” said Edna. “How you do it is up to you.”

“Cage what?” asked Jack.

That’s when Aldwyn felt the air begin to vibrate. There was only one creature that could make the atmosphere rumble with such force.

“Tremor hawks,” said Marianne with a bit of caution.

“Just be thankful I didn’t call the winged rhinos,” said Edna. “Off you go. Time’s a-wasting.”

Already a flock of the brown-feathered predator birds had emerged from the clouds. They beat their wings, leaving fissures of darkness in their wake like black veins across the blue sky. Dalton whipped out his wand and flew upwards, with Skylar flapping beside him.

“I’ll stay down here and man the—” Gilbert started to say, but before he could finish, Marianne scooped him up and shoved him into her pocket.

Aldwyn jumped on to Jack’s back and hooked his claws into the already worn fabric of his loyal’s tunic.

Sister and brother took to the air, led by their wands. Aldwyn felt a surge of excitement as they accelerated and rose higher. He looked ahead at Skylar, then at Gilbert, his two best friends, who had accompanied him on his incredible quest across Vastia. One was a blue jay with the talent of casting illusions; the other a tree frog who could see visions in puddles of water. Well, sometimes he could, anyway. Together, the three familiars had faced insurmountable odds and lived to tell the tale. And here they all were at it again, in the thick of danger, tremor hawks circling around them.


Trussilium bindus
,” incanted Dalton. A silver rope materialised in his free hand, and he threw the coiled end round the neck of one of the hawks, lassoing it. “Got one! Marianne, conjure a glider cage.”

“Giant clover, poison sage—” she chanted, but the spell remained half cast as Dalton was pulled into her by the angry bird trying to break free from his capture. The impact of the blow sent Marianne spinning downwards. Aldwyn watched as she struggled to regain control. She was heading straight for the granite garden deck when an ethereal hand grabbed her in midair and tossed her back into the sky.

“Concentrate,” called out Edna, whose spell had saved the wizard in training. “I won’t always be here to catch you!”

Jack was quick to pick up where Marianne had left off.

“Giant clover, poison sage, trap that hawk inside a cage,” he shouted.

A golden bird cage formed in the sky. Its door swung open and Dalton was able to steer the thrashing tremor hawk inside.

“Good,” shouted Edna from below. “Work together.”

Two of the avian predators screamed towards Jack and Aldwyn, the shock waves nearly knocking Aldwyn off his loyal’s back. Then from the clouds dived a northern fire-breather dragon, its copper wings shining in the sun. The pair of hawks immediately cowered, allowing Dalton the chance to rope two more.

Aldwyn knew enough not to be afraid of the dragon because when he looked over to Dalton, he could see Skylar’s wing trembling. It was one of her illusions. They had been getting more and more lifelike with every attempt.

Marianne summoned two more golden cages, and Dalton guided the ensnared hawks into their aerial prisons.

Now three tremor hawks remained, each sending skyquakes through the air.

“Aldwyn, reach into my pouch and pass me some blinding dust,” Jack instructed his familiar.

Aldwyn grabbed Jack’s pouch in his teeth and was about to open it when a burst of green light flashed over the eastern horizon. For a blink, everything around them took on an emerald hue, as if it were reflected in an algae-covered pond. Suddenly, all three children were in freefall.

“My wand’s not working,” cried Jack.

“Neither is mine,” said Marianne.


Gustavius rescutium
,” incanted Dalton, and Aldwyn could detect a hint of panic in his voice.

BOOK: The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown
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