Under the Serpent Sea (The Secrets of Droon #12), page 1
1: A Mystery Dream
2: Day of Night
3: Fasten Your Sea Belts!
4: Into the Creepy Deep
5: Black Fire, White Wings
6: The Puzzle’s Pieces
7: The Gate Called Doom
8: The Spirit in the Stone
9: Ninns in the Grotto
10: The Wizard Queen
The Adventure Continues …
Eric Hinkle was jumping on his bed and making noises.
His friends Julie and Neal were watching him. Julie’s mouth was hanging open. Neal’s eyes were as big as moons.
“My dream started with a huge storm!” Eric said, waving his arms. “Thunder was pounding the house. Rain was coming down in buckets!”
He paused to catch his breath.
Neal gulped. “Don’t stop now, man. Tell us everything you saw.”
Eric swallowed once and went on. “It could be a dream about Droon,” he said, lowering his voice to a whisper. “But the next part is sort of a mystery. You have to tell me what you think.”
Julie and Neal both nodded silently.
They would never forget the day they discovered the entrance to the magical land of Droon.
First they found a door hidden by some old crates and cartons in Eric’s basement.
Then they pulled the door open and piled into a small closet. The next thing they knew — whoosh! — the floor vanished and they were standing on a shimmering staircase.
The staircase led down to a strange and wonderful world. In that world, the good wizard Galen and the young princess Keeah battled a nasty sorcerer named Lord Sparr and a mysterious sea witch called Demither.
Since their first adventure, Princess Keeah had become one of their best friends. Sometimes she would send them a magical message asking them to come. At other times the kids would know through their dreams about Droon that Keeah needed them.
“I hope you did dream of Droon,” said Julie. “It’s been weeks, and I want to go back.”
But Eric’s latest dream wasn’t like any other he’d ever had. It was more like something that had really happened.
“I was small, maybe four years old,” Eric began. “The storm was scaring me, so I went to the basement to hide.”
“When I’m really afraid, I sort of freak out,” said Neal. “I hide my head and hug my blanket, or maybe a pillow —”
“Neal, shhh!” said Julie. “Eric, go on.”
Eric tried to remember everything. He closed his eyes. Yes, it was coming back to him….
“It was dark in the basement….” he began.
Rain was splashing against the window over the workbench. The apple trees outside whipped around in the wind.
Suddenly — boom! — there was a big banging sound. And the closet door burst open!
Bright red light filled the basement.
“I dived behind an old chair!” Eric said. “Then, right before my eyes, two people stepped out of the closet and into the room.”
“Yikes!” Neal gasped. “Who were they?”
Eric told them what he had seen.
One of the figures was a child about his age, dressed all in blue. The other was a grown-up who wore a long dark cloak.
“What is this place?” the child said. It was a girl’s voice. “Are we still in Droon?”
“No,” said the tall one in a voice like a woman’s, but very deep and scary. “Come, we must do this quickly or he will find us.”
“The big bad man?” asked the girl.
“Yes,” said the woman. “I gave you the red light to help you escape him. And I will give you more. But first, follow me.”
“The girl might be Princess Keeah,” said Julie.
“Then the big bad man would have to be Lord Sparr,” said Neal. “He’s the biggest, baddest man in Droon. But keep going, keep going!”
Eric told them how, in no time, the two strangers were across the basement floor and up the steps. They moved swiftly, as if their feet didn’t even touch the floor.
Quietly, carefully, Eric followed them.
The two figures swept up the steps and into the dark living room. They fluttered past the sofa, the coffee table, and the television.
They started up the stairs to the second floor, then up to the attic.
“There was a weird glow under the woman’s cloak,” Eric told his friends. “She was hiding something, but I couldn’t tell what it was.”
“So you followed them to the attic,” said Neal, reaching for Eric’s pillow. “Then what?”
Eric told how he saw the two figures standing under the sloped roof. Before them was a large window looking out the side of the house.
“I want to go home,” the girl said, trembling.
“Soon,” the woman answered. “We must do this together. Are you ready?”
“Yes.” The girl held out her hands.
“This will be the last time,” the woman said. “Then you will have my power.” She touched the girl’s hands.
Zzzz! — a bright red light passed between them, then stopped. The girl held up her hands.
“I have it now,” she said.
Red sparks shot from her fingertips.
Eric gasped, and the woman turned sharply, showing her face for the first time. Her features were twisted. Her skin was rough and scaly.
“Hurry! Open the window!” she snapped.
The girl moved her hand and, as if by magic, the window sprang open. Cold wind and rain rushed into the attic.
Without another word, both figures spread their arms, ran to the window, and leaped out.
“They flew!” said Eric, bouncing on his bed again. “Over the trees and high over the street. It was so awesome! I think they dipped behind the library, but the storm got too wild to see. Finally, I woke up.” He sat down on the edge of the bed. “So what do you think?”
“Whoa,” Neal murmured. “I love the flying part. I wonder what it’s like having cool powers like that. Not that we’ll ever know….”
Julie’s eyes shone. “If the girl was Keeah, I think we’re being called back. I think we should go!”
She and Neal jumped to the bedroom door.
But Eric didn’t move.
“What’s the matter?” asked Neal.
Eric frowned. “Well, our dreams usually come true in Droon. But I was little in my dream. So was Keeah. This dream can’t come true.”
“But what if it’s not really a dream?” said Julie, suddenly excited. “What if it’s a memory? I mean, maybe it actually did happen. And your dream is what you remember —”
Eric stood up. “Of course! I can’t believe I didn’t think of it. Remember when Keeah said she had been in my basement once before? But nobody could figure out how?”
“Galen and everybody said it was impossible,” said Neal.
“Well, maybe it’s not so impossible,” said Eric. “If my dream really did happen, it proves that Keeah was here before!”
The three friends stared at one another.
They were all thinking the same thing.
They needed to get to Droon right away.
In no time they tramped down the stairs to the basement. They began pulling away the cartons blocking the closet door under the stairs.
“But if the girl was Keeah,” said Neal, “then the other person was …”
Eric shuddered, remembering the woman’s strange face. “That voice, the scaly skin. I know who it was.
They all shivered to think of her.
The witch had a history of doing bad things. Once she transformed into a giant sea serpent and destroyed Keeah’s ship. Another time, she tried to kidnap Keeah’s mother, Queen Relna.
“If it was Demither,” said Julie, “it would explain how Keeah seems to have witch powers.”
“Exactly,” said Eric. “Wizard powers give off a blue light. But Keeah also had red powers like Demither. They’re sort of wild and dangerous.”
“But why were the two of them in your house?” asked Neal. “That’s the biggest puzzle.”
“And maybe we’ll find out today,” said Julie.
The kids piled into the closet. Eric closed the door behind them and Neal switched off the light. The room was dark. Then it wasn’t.
Whoosh! The floor vanished and they stood at the top of a rainbow-colored staircase.
Together, the three friends descended the stairs. Down they went through a layer of wispy clouds. Below them, the bright orange sun of Droon shone on a magnificent city.
“It’s Jaffa City,” said Neal. “Right on Keeah’s doorstep. We’re pretty good at this, you know?”
Eric grinned at his friends. “Yeah, we are.”
But as they hurried down the stairs, a sharp wind rose up and nearly blew them off the side.
“Holy cow!” said Julie, struggling to hold on.
Then hard, icy rain began pelting them.
Before they knew it, large black clouds swept across the sky, completely blotting out the sun.
“What’s happening?” asked Eric.
“I don’t know, but I see Galen’s tower,” said Julie, pointing to a tall tower standing near the city walls. “Let’s try to get over there now!”
“Right,” said Neal as the sky boomed with thunder. “Maybe Galen has a blanket I can hide under. This is getting scary!”
The kids ran breathlessly from the stairs all the way to the upper room of Galen’s magical tower.
Entering, they screeched to a halt.
“And I thought the weather outside was bad,” gasped Eric, looking around the room. “There’s a snowstorm in here!”
It did look like a snowstorm.
A snowstorm of paper.
Galen, the white-bearded wizard, was making papers fly all over the cluttered room.
“Now where is that prophecy?” he bellowed, snatching at papers, then sending them off again. “Max! Bring Quill! Keeah! Bring my mirror!”
“Um … Galen?” said Julie. “Hello….”
The wizard turned and blinked. “Ah, children! This is a black day for Droon. I must discover where this queer storm is coming from. Max! Where are you? And where is Quill?”
Scritch-itch! A sharp scratching sound came from across the room.
Galen whirled on his heels. “There you are!”
Max, the wizard’s eight-legged spider troll helper, staggered in under the weight of an enormous book. Standing upright in the book was a long, curved feather pen named Quill.
The kids had seen Quill before. He was a magical pen who wrote down everything that happened in Droon. Sometimes he wrote so fast, he wrote the future. He was writing quickly now.
“Hello, friends!” Max chirped, setting the fat book on Galen’s table. “I certainly hope Quill can help us get to the bottom of this storm —”
“Oof! Oh, help! Mirror … heavy!” groaned a muffled voice behind the children. They turned to see a big silver mirror edging its way into the room. Someone was under it, trying to carry it.
“It’s Keeah!” said Julie.
The kids rushed to the princess, helping her set the mirror down in the center of the room.
Keeah smiled. “Thank you!” she said.
When Eric saw Keeah’s light blue tunic, he was more convinced than ever that she was the girl in his dream.
“How did you know to come?” she asked.
Neal was so excited he just blurted it out. “Eric dreamed about you! About when you came to the Upper World! With Demither! The witch!”
Instantly, all the papers fluttered to the floor, Keeah’s mouth dropped open, and Max fell over.
Galen frowned. “Eric, tell us everything.”
Eric took a deep breath and described each detail of his dream. By the time he’d finished, everyone was staring at him.
“We all think it really happened,” said Julie.
Keeah turned to Galen. “I remember being in Eric’s basement, but not the rest of it. And not the witch!”
The wizard stroked his snow-white beard slowly. “Clearly, Demither gave you some powers, powers that you cannot control yet. That fire at breakfast this morning, for instance. Or the snakes in my silver washbasin …”
Keeah frowned. “I’m sorry about that,” she said. “I don’t know how any of that happened.”
“Exactly the reason we must be careful,” said Galen. “Though why the witch gave you powers at all is still the most puzzling of puzzles. I only wish you remembered more of it —”
Kkkkk! A jagged bolt of lightning flashed outside the tower’s windows, illuminating the black sky.
“But I see we have more pressing concerns!” Galen said. “Mirror — awake! Show me where this storm comes from.”
Zzzzt! There was a loud buzzing sound, and the gray surface of the old mirror cleared.
It showed a rocky coast whipped by rain and wind. Just beyond the jagged cliffs a dark sea was spinning into an enormous swirl of water.
“A hurricane,” said Julie. “A big one.”
“That must be the center of the storm,” said Eric. “But what’s out there?”
“More like who’s out there,” said Max, his orange hair standing on end. “That is the Serpent Sea, off the coast of Mintar. Known as the home of Witch Demither!”
Keeah peered into the mirror. “Do you think she’s causing the storm? But how … and why?”
Scritch! Scratch! The magic feather pen suddenly began writing in the book.
“Ah!” said the wizard. “Quill will tell us all!”
The feather pen whizzed furiously across two full pages, then stopped. It seemed to Eric that the pen breathed heavily, and then lay down on the book to take a nap.
Galen read the pages. His face turned pale.
“Master, what’s wrong?” asked Max.
The wizard shook his head. “Quill says this storm is indeed the work of Demither —”
“I knew it!” chirped Max. “It’s some evil new plan to make the good people of Droon suffer!”
“But there is more,” said Galen quietly. “Quill writes that Demither is using the Red Eye of Dawn to cause this storm.”
“Oh, man, does it get any worse?” Neal groaned.
The Red Eye of Dawn was a magic jewel created by Lord Sparr to control the forces of nature.
He was planning to use the Eye to help him conquer all of Droon for himself. Then Witch Demither stole the Eye from him.
Now she was using it to make the storm.
Boom-ba-boom! Thunder rumbled overhead, shaking the tower from top to bottom.
“It feels like the end of the world,” said Julie, shivering. “What can we do?”
All eyes turned to Galen.
“It is quite clear what you must do,” he said. “You must go to Demither’s realm under the Serpent Sea of Mintar. There you must stop her from using the Red Eye. Steal it from her if you have to.”
Keeah turned to her friends. “Mintar is on the far side of Droon. Will you come with me?”
Eric nodded. “I think that’s why we’re here!”
“Good,” she said with a smile. “Luckily, Friddle the inventor has set up his workshop nearby. He’ll help us get to Demither’s lair. Follow me!”
She marched quickly out the door.
As Eric, Julie, and Neal went to follow her, Galen raised his hand. “A moment please, my friends. I must tell you of something else that Quill wrote. A warning.”
“What kind of warning?” he asked.
Galen read from the book. “Quill writes that Keeah will undergo a dangerous trial today. Her powers will be tested as never before. If Keeah fails her trial, it could mean doom for her.”
“What kind of trial?” Eric asked.
“What kind of doom?” asked Neal.
Galen scratched his brow and went on. “Every young wizard is tested to see if they are worthy of their power. Unfortunately, Keeah possesses not only the good wizard arts but also the angry red arts of the witch. If she becomes afraid or angry, her powers may overwhelm her.”
“If that happens,” said Julie, “does it mean she might never become a real wizard?”
“Or worse,” Galen replied. “The dark powers might turn her against us. And against Droon.”
The three friends stared at one another.
“What can we do to help?” asked Eric.
“Alas,” said Galen, “Quill warns us not to tell Keeah about this. It might only make matters worse. Also, since I myself would be tempted to help Keeah, I cannot go with you.”
“You’re not coming?” Julie said. “We’re going to the witch’s house and you won’t be there?”
The wizard gave a half smile. “Perhaps I can find a way around that. Now go stop Demither from using the Eye. And stay close to Keeah.”
“We’ll stick to her like cheese on a pizza,” said Neal. “You can count on us.”
“Same here,” said Eric. “What Neal said.”
The three kids ran down through the tower. When they popped out below, Max was there.
“Children!” he chirped. “Do not let my master join you on your mission today. Quill says he may not.”
“I think we’d notice him,” said Julie.
“Ah, but Galen is tricky!” said Max. “He is a wizard, after all. He may not look like himself.”
“You mean he’d come in disguise?” said Neal. “Like with blue eyebrows? Or big clown feet? Or a bald head? Or the ultimate disguise, glasses?”
Max blinked at Neal. “Just so. But if you see him, bop him right on the nose! He hates that.”
“Bop him?” asked Julie. “Bop Galen’s nose?”
“What if it’s a fake nose?” asked Neal.
“Either way!” Max said. “If he meddles with the prophecy, it may mean doom for Keeah!”
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