Welcome to today’s peek into the world of The Camelot Kids!
Today’s sneak peek at Russ and Josh has a special place in my heart. The boys are best friends, always together and always, well, blabbing. Between the two of them there isn’t a discussion unturned. If they’re not trying to get to the bottom of why cats don’t respond to whistles then they’re devising ways to test their theory that melted chocolate will flow just fine through the park fountain.
Here’s an excerpt from a scene with Josh and Russ, best friends to each other and loyal buddies to Simon.
The set-up: Simon has just had a disastrous first day in New Camelot. Day two isn’t shaping up to be much better, until he gets to know some of the other boys.
Simon woke to the sounds of rattling steel and heavy boots stomping out the door.
“What’s going…” he said, half-asleep. The darkness of the room was barely interrupted by the moonlight that crept through the high, slim windows of Wellwoven.
“Been trying to wake you for five minutes, sir,” Russ said, as he followed Josh out the door. “Better not be late again. Hector doesn’t like us making the same mistake twice.”
“Thanks,” Simon said. He threw on his armor as best he could, but it wasn’t so natural to him as it was to the others. He ended up running after the second-to-last last boy out, still rearranging some straps that, for the life of him, he couldn’t find a use for.
He followed the flow of kids down the hallway until the sound from the waterfall surrounded them. But before they reached Tapper, the boys and girls turned left to walk down a set of wide stairs. Everyone filed into a large circular dining hall.
Simon had never seen anything like it.
Large posts reached high to the arched ceiling, which was buttressed by equally massive beams. They must have been made from the biggest trees ever, Simon thought. Fireplaces burned the chill out of all four corners of the hall, casting a warm glow over everyone seated at the table.
And the table! It was the most impressive of all— a single giant, round surface with dozens of slightly curved benches around it, most filled with kids talking with their mouths full of breakfast. Along the walls were several arched windows, lined with ivy. They framed the grounds outside and the mountains in the distance. The first sign of the sun poked up behind them. It was going to be a beautiful morning.
Dozens of castle employees scrambled about, keeping the plates piled high with bacon and the cups filled to the top with juice. One lady kept the staff motivated, barking out polite but firm orders like, “Section 8 is drowning in eggs, while 6 hasn’t even smelled them yet, dear!” The servers bowed slightly as they passed her. She was an impressive woman, three hundred pounds if she was an ounce. Her face was kind but her eyes had a focus to them that kept everyone on their toes. She saw Simon staring at her and gave him a nod and a smile.
He spotted Russ and Josh waving at him. He waved back, which seemed to get a lot of attention, because the chatter began to quiet down. The boys and girls stared at him, some whispering. Simon felt like turning around and going back to bed, but he forced himself to step forward. The floor was smooth cobblestone that clicked under his boots. By step number three, it was the only sound in the hall. He slipped into a spot on Josh’s and Russ’ bench as fast as he could. He smiled and shrugged, not sure what to say.
“Well that was awkward,” Josh said. Simon laughed and some other boys joined in.
They enjoyed some succulent dishes, quiet conversation, and the view of the mountains. No one nearby was showing contempt for Simon so far. In fact, Russ and Josh were joined by some other kids who went out of their way to include him in the conversation.
“Nellie was pretty as a pie, you ask me. I don’t know what she sees in that doofus,” said a fair-skinned, slightly unhealthy looking boy. “He didn’t even pay attention to her the whole time.” The most life he had in his face was in his eyes, which were trying to get a look at this Nellie, who sat across the hall.
“Ooooo. Sam is smitten with a new girl today,” Josh teased him. He leaned in close to Simon and whispered, “He falls for a new one every week.”
“Cut it out, Josh,” Sam said, getting some much-needed color in his face.
“A true romantic,” said Russ. Some of the guys laughed, their mouths full of buttery bread and bacon.
“A true moron,” came a deep voice from farther down the table. Simon remembered the speaker as one of the large boys who had helped Gawain to his feet after the fight the day before.
The nearby kids dipped their heads down. They didn’t want trouble. Simon would have done the same a few days ago, but not here. He’d have none of that here.
“Who are you?” Simon asked curtly.
“I’m your worst nightmare,” the kid mumbled to his friends. The posse laughed. Simon noticed that Gawain was in the middle of them, but he wasn’t acknowledging the conversation at all. He just kept eating his porridge.
“I guess I’ll call you Mumbler, then,” Simon said, not sure where he was getting the courage to stand up to this guy.
All the big kids lost their grins, glanced at each other and nodded their heads.
They stood up quickly, in perfect unison. The backs of their legs knocked the long bench over. All the other boys on the bench, including Simon, were on their backs in a split second.
Gawain was standing along with the other big kids, but he’d grabbed his plate and was still eating from it as if nothing were happening.
Simon was about to sit up when a foot came down on his chest. It was Mumbler, who appeared very self-satisfied. The back of Simon’s head hit the stone floor. The big kid removed an armored glove from his hand and was about to slap Simon with it when Gawain snagged his wrist.
“We play fair around here,” Gawain said. Mumbler jerked his arm away and put his glove back on. Gawain leaned into Simon’s field of vision. “At least some of us do.”
The posse walked through the door to the grounds outside, laughing and giving Mumbler pats on the back. Gawain lifted the bench back into place and sat down by himself to work on a new bowl of porridge.
Russ grabbed one of Simon’s hands and Josh took the other. They pulled him up. All of them stared at their plates of tasty food.
“The Mumbler is Eric,” Russ said softly, probably wanting to break the humiliating silence. “He fancies himself Gawain’s righthand man. That would make him second in command among us trainees.” Russ glanced over at Gawain, who still ate as if he’d just been introduced to food, then whispered. “No one’s sure if Gawain even likes him, though.”
“You could have taken him if he hadn’t cheated.” Sam was jiggling his left knee nervously.
“There’s no such thing as cheating,” Simon said. The words came to him automatically. “The enemy will win any way he can. That means you have to think like him. As long as you’re on the right side of things, that’ll guide you.”
The boys didn’t know what to say for a moment. Even Simon pondered what he’d said, as if someone else had spoken with his voice.
Then Russ asked, “So being right is the only thing that separates us from the enemy?”
Simon was surprised at all the eyes on him. “I don’t know about that, but I lost because I didn’t act on stuff I knew.”
“Like what?” Josh asked.
“Like he’s bigger than me and that all his friends are bigger than me. I knew he didn’t like me from the second I saw him, so I was a target. Me and everyone I’m with. I knew the only thing that bound me to him in any way, actually, was the seat we sat on. It was a weapon he could use against me.” The boys nodded. “The thing that surprises me is that he had the move coordinated with the other guys.”
“Yeah, they pull that trick sometimes,” Russ said. “But usually without provocation.”
“I know the type.” Simon said.
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Welcome to the latest peek at a character from The Camelot Kids. If you missed the Maille Rose peek, check it out.
Caradoc may look like something out of a nightmare, but… well, who am I kidding, he IS something out of a nightmare!
But the troll is complex. He’s one puzzle after another. When we first meet him, he’s as mean as he is ugly. But as Simon gets to know him, he spots a pleasing trait or two.
In the following scene, Maille Rose, Simon and Caradoc are searching New Camelot for some missing gold. They suspect two mischievous faeries have teamed up and hidden the gold in the town’s granary. Their suspicions are correct.
But they’ve forgotten one important thing. It’s Friday. And Rule #2 in the “Care of Faeries Handbook” clearly states:
Don’t let a faerie meet a faerie on Fridays.
Enjoy this excerpt from The Camelot Kids!
Caradoc slipped in the key and opened the door. Torches on the wall lit up slowly as they entered. Simon found himself in a huge cave, packed with grain.
“This feeds the whole city year round,” Maille explained. “Let’s hope that floating rodent didn’t do anything to our food supply. Okay, start looking.” Maille walked into the grain piles and started sifting through with her hands. Caradoc and Simon looked at each other. Maille glanced over her shoulder and rolled her eyes.
“For the gold! It probably hid the stash in here somewhere. The vents in the roof are meant to aerate the grain, but I bet they make it really easy to smell gold from a long ways away, too.”
“We have to find the gold under all of this?” Simon asked.
“Unless you have a better idea,” she answered, readying herself for a new argument with Simon.
“Can’t you use, like, I don’t know, a spell or something?” Simon plead.
“A grain-moving spell? Oh, sure! That’s magic 101!”
“Fabulous!” Caradoc smiled and clapped his hands together.
“She’s being sarcastic, Caradoc,” Simon said. He started digging.
“Wait a minute,” Maille muttered. Her eyes darted around the cave. She smirked. “I could try something. Stand back, guys. Way, way back. This might get ugly.” Simon and the troll stood behind her. “If anyone else is in here with us, you’d better show yourself now or you’ll be getting much smaller in about ten seconds!” This made Simon and Caradoc back up a little more.
Maille didn’t move for a moment. Then she started to breathe heavily, pulled out her bat-wand and uttered the ugliest words Simon had ever heard.
A red haze shot out from her wand and covered the mounds of grain. Slowly, the piles began to peel away. As more grain moved, the cavern filled with an excruciatingly loud sound, like a billion locusts swarming down on them. The top two feet of grain slid across the room and rested against the far wall. Finally, the grain settled and the sound died down.
Maille was winded. She sat and put her head between her legs.
“What was that?” Simon asked, stunned.
“The Peeler. It’s meant to skin dead animals. Figured I’d give it a shot.”
“Splendid!” Caradoc shouted. They glanced up to see if the spell had yielded anything.
Indeed, across the cave was a single point of golden light flickering in the torchlight. But before they could take a step, two færies swept down from the shadows, blocking their way.
“Outta the way, ya varmints!” Caradoc roared. When the faeries just hovered there, getting uglier by the second, Caradoc’s angry face turned into Caradoc’s really worried face. “What day is it?” Caradoc asked, quietly.
“Friday,” Maille and Simon said together.
“Uh-oh,” all three muttered.
And right in front of their eyes the two færies bleated something and went at each other with a viciousness that would have done cats proud. The two disappeared into the grain with a thud. Then there was silence.
Caradoc and Maille started to back away. “Where are you going?” Simon said. “They took each other out! The coast is clear.”
“Simon! Back away!” Caradoc hollered.
Out of the grain emerged a much larger færie. More specifically, it was the two færies melded together. It had four eyes and four wings, though they were quickly becoming one big, revolting monstrosity. The four eyes became two and the creature shrieked in pain, swelling, mutating with every second that passed.
The party of three were almost backed up to the door when a roar of anger filled the cave. The faerie was only around five feet tall, but equally wide. Its gigantic fangs made Caradoc squeak in fright.
Then it came for them.
Maille reached for her wand but Simon knew she’d be too slow to match its speed. At a full sprint, he grabbed the bat from her hand, twirled on his feet and swung with all his might.
The færie flew back as fast as it had sprung forward and hit the far wall hard. It lay still. Within seconds it had transformed into two pixies again. They were sprawled over each other, out cold.
“Home run!” Maille yelled, arms raised. Caradoc started running for the door again. “Caradoc, where are you going?”
“You told us to run home!” Maille and Simon laughed.
“It’s a baseball term,” Maille said, twirling her bat.
Caradoc tried to chuckle but he didn’t think it was funny.
“You grab my bat again and I turn you into a booger,” Maille said to Simon, with a wink.
The troll slowly approached the shiny object jutting out of the grain. He felt the edges of a large golden box and heaved it up as if it were cardboard. Opening it revealed a messy pile of golden leaves.
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