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Charlie Bone and The Castle of Mirrors
(Book 4) Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors
At the edge of the city, Bloor’s Academy stood dark and silent under the stars. Tomorrow 300 children would climb the steps between two towers, cross the courtyard, and crowd through the great oak doors. But for now the old building appeared to be utterly deserted.

And yet, if you had been standing in the garden, on the other side of the school, you could not have failed to notice the strange lights that occasionally flickered from small windows in the roof. And if you had been able to look through one of these windows, you would have seen Ezekiel Bloor, a very old man, maneuvering his vintage wheelchair into an extraordinary room.

The laboratory, as Ezekiel liked to call it, was a long attic room with wide floorboards and a ceiling of bare raters. Assorted tables, covered with bottles, books, herbs, and weapons, stood against the walls, while beneath them, a stack of dusty chests protruded into the room, threatening to trip anyone who might pass their way.

Dried and faded plants hung from the rafters, and pieces of armor, suspended from the broad crossbeams, clunked ominously whenever a draft swept past them. They clunked now as Ezekiel moved across the floor.

The old man’s great-grandson, Manfred, was standing beside a trestle table in the center of the room. Manfred had grown during summer vacation, and Ezekiel felt proud that this tall young man had chosen to work with him rather than go off to college like the other seniors. Mind you, despite his height, Manfred had a skinny frame, sallow, blotchy skin, and a face that was all bones and hallows.

At this moment, his face twisted into a grimace of concentration as he shuffled a pile of bones across the table in front of him. Above him hung seven gas jets set into an iron wheel, their bluish flames emitting a faint purr. When he saw his great-grandfather, Manfred gave a huge sigh of irritation and exclaimed, “It’s beyond me. I hate puzzles.”

“It’s not a puzzle,” snapped Ezekiel. “Those are the bones of Hamaran, a warhorse of exceptional strength and courage.”

“So what? How are a few measly bones going to bring your ancestor back to life?” Manfred directed a disdainful glance at Ezekiel, who instantly lowered his gaze. He did not was to be hypnotized by his own great-grandson.

Keeping his eyes fixed on the bones; the old man brought his wheelchair closer to the table. Ezekiel Bloor was 101 years old, but other men of that age could look considerably better preserved. Ezekiel’s face was little more than a skull. His remaining teeth were cracked and blackened, and a few stands of white hair hung from beneath a black velvet cap. But his eyes were still full of life; black and glittering, they darted about with a savage intensity.

“We have enough,” said the old man, indicating the other objects on the table: a suit of chain mail, a helmet, a black fur cape, and a gold cloak pin. “They’re Borlath’s. My grandfather found them in the castle, wrapped in leather inside the tomb. The skeleton was gone.” He stroked the black fur almost fondly.

Borlath had been Ezekiel’s hero ever since he was a boy. Stories of his warlike ancestor had fired his imagination until he came to believe that Borlath could solve all his problems. Lately he had dreamed that Borlath would sweep him out of his wheelchair and together they would terrorize the city. Then Charlie Bone and his detestable uncle would have to look out.

“What about the electricity for the--you know—moment of life? There isn’t any in here.” Manfred looked up at the gas jets.

“Oh, that!” Ezekiel waved his hand dismissively. He wheeled himself to another table and picked up a small can with two prongs extending from the top. He turned a handle in the side of the can and a blue spark leaped between the prongs. “Voila! Electricity!” he gleefully announced. “Now get on with it. The children will be back tomorrow, and we don’t want any of them getting in the way of our little experiment.”

“Especially Charlie Bone,” Manfred grunted.

“Charlie Bone!” Ezekiel almost spit the name. “His grandmother said he’d be a help, but he’s the reverse. I thought I’d almost got him on my side last semester, but then he had to go whining on about his lost father and blaming me.”

“He wasn’t wrong there,” Manfred muttered.

“Think of what he could do with that talent of his,” Ezekiel went on. “He looks into a picture and, bingo, he’s there, talking to people long dead. What I wouldn’t give…” Ezekiel shook his head. “He’s got the blood of that infernal Welsh magician. And the wand.”

“I have plans for that,” said Manfred softly. “It’ll be mine soon—just you wait.”

“Indeed.” Ezekiel chuckled. He began to propel himself around the room while his great-grandson concentrated on the delicate job of bone-gluing.

As Ezekiel moved into the deep shadows at the far end of the room, his thoughts turned to Billy Raven, the white-haired orphan who used to spy on Charlie Bone. Billy had become rebellious of late. He’d refused to tell Ezekiel what Charlie and his friends were up to. As a result, Ezekiel and the Bloors were in danger of losing control of all the endowed children in the school. Something would have to be done.


Illustrations(c) 2004 Chris Sheeba
 
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