|~ The Author's Official Website ~
|Copyright © Thomas J. Prestopnik
2005 - 2014
All rights reserved.
|Read Chapter One from
THE SWORD AND THE CROWN
“The curious thing about a magic timedoor is that it will open and close to a
particular place only three times, then it is gone forever,” Artemas said.
Well, that was his theory until something happened that had never
happened before. Now our world and Endora are connected once again,
and trouble is busting out all over. A young prince must fight for his very
existence as his enemies plan their attack. And Christopher and Molly sail
into danger–and Belthasar is back!
While the Jordan family attends an anniversary party for King Rupert and
Queen Eleanor, strange incidents begin to unfold. Then after Christopher
and Molly travel to the neighboring kingdom of Solárin with Princess
Rosalind, the mysteries quickly multiply. The children uncover a devious
plot involving Rosalind’s fiancé Prince Jeremiah, the future king of Solárin.
Will his coronation proceed unhindered, or will an imposter unknowingly be
crowned king? Time is fast running out as Christopher and Molly battle
against incredible odds to defeat an old adversary and prevent two
kingdoms from spiraling into war.
The one-eyed giant skipped merrily along the side of the road, its teeth as
large as playing cards. A wispy white ghost followed closely behind, its
footsteps echoing clump clump clump in the frosty night air. The headless
horseman scurried to catch up as a string of volcanic sneezes erupted
underneath his flowing black cape. The monstrous trio zeroed in on a
nearby house standing alone under a cover of stars. Warm yellow light
streamed out of its windows, gently washing over the driveway and front
One man watched this unfolding scene in secret, safely hidden behind some
nearby shrubs. His curious gaze shifted from one strange creature to the
next as they approached the front door. He wrapped his cloak tightly about
him to ward off a chill, unable to imagine what the three individuals would do
once they reached the house. Should he charge ahead and stop them, or
perhaps resort to more drastic measures? What strange goings-on, he
thought with a shake of his head. What had happened to this place over the
last four years?
He stood and peeked over the top of the shrubbery, then raised a hand and
began whispering a few words. When the one-eyed giant rang a doorbell,
however, and a lady opened the front door and didn’t scream in fright, the
man quickly lowered his hand and stopped speaking.
“Trick-or-treat!” the trio cried in unison, each holding out a cloth bag.
The man behind the shrubs watched as the lady tossed small objects into
the bags while uttering delightful comments to her visitors. He scratched his
head and rolled his eyes, unable to comprehend what was happening. And
as for that chant of trick-or-treat, well, he couldn’t begin to imagine what that
Then they left, walking along the road toward the next house over half a
football field away. The lady retreated back inside her home. All was quiet
save for the steady chirping of crickets and the crackling candle flames
inside a dozen jack-o-lanterns sitting on the porch steps and floor.
The man looked quickly about. No one else was around–human or
otherwise–so he stepped out from behind the shrubs and made a mad
scramble to the front porch and rang the bell. The door opened suddenly
and the lady reappeared lugging a large orange plastic bowl of candy bars.
She looked at the stranger with a mix of intrigue and wonder. He stood taller
than she, wrapped in a brown cloak with a hood draped over his head of
thick gray hair framing a pair of ocean-blue eyes. A beard trailed down to his
“My, what a terrific costume. But aren’t you a little too old to be trick-or-
treating?” she said with a smirk, handing him a candy bar before hurriedly
The man stood dumbfounded, facing the closed door. “But I don’t want one
of these–these–whatever it is!” he muttered to the glowing jack-o-lanterns.
He rang the bell again and the lady reappeared.
“I’m sorry, sir, but only one treat per night. You should know the rules,
especially at your age.”
“Rules? What rules are you talking about?” Artemas said, throwing back his
hood. “I just want to speak with the Jordan family.” He handed the candy
bar back to the lady. “Forgive me if this sounds like a ridiculous question,
but why are you in their house?”
Her eyes widened like an owl’s. “This is my house and has been for nearly
three years,” she said coolly. “Now who may I ask are you?”
“My name is Artemas, and I apologize for dropping by unannounced, but I’m
seeking the Jordan family who lived here four years ago. Do you know
where they are?”
“Look, Rip Van Winkle, I don’t even know who they are. I bought this house
about three years ago from a Mr. Abernathy,” she explained, resting the
bowl of candy on her hip. “Apparently you have the wrong address.”
“Oh, no, no, no! I’m quite certain this is the correct establishment,” Artemas
said. “I distinctly remember that barn over there.” He pointed to a worn out
building standing in the field across the road, nestled among pine trees and
“You do, hmm? Well it’s a shame that Mrs. Halloway isn’t home now.
Perhaps she would know where the Jordans went.”
“Perhaps…” Artemas said softly, tugging nervously on his beard as he
stared at the floor. “This is indeed a mystery.”
The woman noticed how distressed Artemas appeared and apologized for
being brusque. “Maybe if you go to the library you might be able to locate
the Jordans on-line.”
“On what line?”
“On the computer,” she said, sighing through her teeth. “The Internet?”
“Oh yes! I remember what one of those looks like. Sam Jordan used a
computer in the planetarium to help me determine when–” Artemas caught
himself and offered the lady a crooked grin. “Well no need to go there.”
She shrugged. “Whatever…”
“Anyway, visiting the library is an excellent suggestion, and I already know
where it is,” Artemas said.
“I’m so happy for you.” The woman stepped back into the house. “Now I do
have to go inside, sir. It’s quite chilly out here.”
“My apologies again, ma’am, for troubling you so, especially tonight
when…” Artemas looked at her with questioning eyes. “Could you tell me
what exactly is going on tonight? Why are strange creatures roaming
“It’s Halloween, mister. You do know what that is, don’t you?”
“I would like to say that I do, but…”
“Well perhaps you can look up that information in the library too,” she
replied with a wave of her fingers, then started to close the door. “Now
goodnight and watch out for goblins.”
“Goblins! Here? What about trolls?”
But the door slammed shut and Artemas was left alone on the porch with a
bevy of glowing pumpkins, knowing he wouldn’t get an answer to his final
question. So he draped his hood over his head and walked along the
country road. It was less than a mile into town, Artemas recalled, so it
wouldn’t take him long to get to the library located two blocks from the
museum. The magician’s thoughts were in a flutter and he hoped the fresh
air would clear his mind. After all, this was the last place he had ever
expected to be again in his lifetime.
Artemas hurried up the stone steps of the library, greeted once again by a
huge glowing jack-o-lantern on the top landing. An assortment of skeletons,
ghosts and ogres occupied the fence posts and shrubbery out front, making
him scratch his head at the bizarre spectacle.
“What has happened to these people?” he whispered.
Artemas opened the front door and entered the library, happy to be inside
where it was warm and bright. The sight of hundreds of books neatly
shelved cheered him at once, reminding him of his parchment scroll
collection in his chamber back in Endora. A woman looked up from behind
the main desk and breathed a sigh of relief. Miss Mayfield, the head
librarian, rushed over to greet Artemas. A pair of glasses dangled from a thin
chain around her neck.
“I thought you’d never get here!” she whispered, grabbing his arm and
leading him to a back room. “I’m Mina Mayfield. Nice to finally meet you in
person, but you’re nearly twenty minutes late and the kids are starting to get
restless. I mean, how many apples can they bob for?”
“Late? Kids? What are you talking about?” Artemas blustered. “I need you
to start up one of those computer contraptions so I can obtain some
information in a straight line–or something like that.”
“Just go in there and do your thing,” she said, not paying attention to
Artemas. “The mothers have read ten Halloween stories since I last
checked, and some of them are getting as sour as the cider. You’re the main
attraction, so get to it!”
“Get to what? I don’t–”
Artemas didn’t have another moment to protest, for Miss Mayfield opened a
door leading into a meeting room filled with children and pumpkins and
streams of orange and black crepe paper, and pushed him inside. The
mothers cheered when they saw Artemas in his magical attire and quickly
ushered the children to their seats. Miss Mayfield escorted Artemas to the
front of the room where a small card table had been set up and turned him
to face the crowd. She clapped her hands a few times to quiet the crowd,
and then put on her glasses and smiled.
“Children, as the main attraction for this year’s library Halloween party, we
have hired Wendell the Wacky Wizard to entertain you with his amazing
feats of magic!” she exclaimed amid cheers and applause. “So without
further ado, I’ll hand over the proceedings to the star of the show–Wendell!”
Miss Mayfield extended her arms toward Artemas and backed away, leaving
him alone and befuddled in front of forty children munching on candy corn
and popcorn balls and sipping warm apple cider. Artemas shrugged slightly
and stared uneasily at the faces staring back at him, then slowly removed
his hood. He looked at Miss Mayfield, at a loss for words, and saw her
urging him on to begin.
“Show us some magic!” a voice called out from the back. “Show us what
kind of wizard you really are.”
“Technically, I’m only a magician,” Artemas explained with a raised finger,
prepared to elaborate in detail on that point. “Though some of the
differences between a magician and a wizard are indeed subtle, let me
assure you that…”
Artemas trailed off when he noticed a few of the children in the front row
starting to yawn. Several others squirmed in their seats or concentrated on
eating more Halloween candy or staring at the crepe paper streamers
hanging from the ceiling.
“He is going to do tricks, isn’t he?” a girl whispered to her friend in the next
seat, loud enough so that Artemas heard. “I don’t want to hear another
“Fear not, little one,” Artemas said. “You will definitely see some magic
As the crowd cheered again, Artemas recalled with dread his first attempt at
magic in this world four years ago. What a struggle it had been to create
that grapevine in the Jordan’s living room in the dead of night. Entering this
world weakened his magical abilities, and if he stayed here too long, they
would cease to exist. Poor Malaban had found that out. But Artemas arrived
only a short while ago and felt as strong as ever. He should be able to
perform some magic unimpeded for a few hours yet. If they wanted a magic
show, he’d give them one to remember.
“Hmmm, let’s see,” Artemas considered, scanning the room for an idea. He
noticed a boy with a crew cut in the third row holding a small bag and
popping a piece of candy corn into his mouth. “Ah ha! I have it!” he said,
snapping his fingers. “Young man, bring me a piece of that candy you’re so
fond of eating.”
“Sure,” he said, sauntering up to the front of the room. He handed Artemas
a single candy corn from the bag.
“Thank you.” Artemas held up the triangular piece of candy between his
thumb and index finger and examined it closely. “White pointed top, orange
middle and yellow base. Not very big either. And you eat these for a treat?”
“Usually around Halloween,” the boy said. “Want some for yourself?”
“No thank you…” he said, still paying close attention to the piece of candy
while considering his options. Then a gleam formed in his eyes and he
smiled. “I think I have just the trick. Pay close attention.”
The children and adults leaned forward and watched as Artemas placed the
single candy corn on the card table in front of him. Then he slowly waved
his hand over it and whispered a string of strange sounding syllables. His
voice was as raspy as an autumn breeze winding through a field of brittle
“Gluvitygusragro!” he commanded.
The room was as quiet as an ant scooting across a sidewalk. All eyes
targeted the piece of candy corn lying lifelessly on the card table. Then it
moved slightly, or they might have imagined it. Then it moved again, this
time for certain. Suddenly the candy corn began to spin around like a needle
of a compass gone wild, faster and faster until it became a blur. Slowly, the
candy began to grow. First it was as large as a quarter, and then it
expanded to the size of a small stone. In no time it increased to the size of a
large stone, and then a book, a shoebox, a breadbox, and finally a beach
ball. And when at last the spinning stopped, the candy corn rested on the
card table like some huge prize-winning watermelon plucked fresh from a
“A! MAY! ZING!” one of the children uttered in wide-eyed wonder.
“Is it real?” another asked, poking the colossal confection with a finger.
“Very real, I assure you,” Artemas said, quite pleased with himself.
“How–how did you do that?” a breathless Miss Mayfield asked. “You couldn’
t have had that hidden up your sleeve.”
“I’m not at liberty to say,” Artemas replied with a wink. “Magician’s secrets
and all that.”
“Can you do it again?” the boy asked, setting a second piece of candy corn
on the table. “Twice would be really amazing!”
“I don’t see why not!” Artemas said with glee, now in the spirit of the
festivities. He never performed in front of such a large audience before, and
their enthusiasm made him forget his real mission for the moment.
Before anyone could say another word, Artemas repeated his magic word–
gluvitygusragro!–and the new piece of candy began to spin and grow. He
moved the first one aside to the edge of the table to make room for the
second. As it grew and grew, the card table shook on its legs from the
additional weight. Finally, the magic trick was complete, and two massive
slabs of candy corn lay before them. One child tried to lift one off the table
but could barely budge it.
“Careful so you don’t hurt yourself!” Miss Mayfield cried. “You might strain a
“Can we break off a piece to eat?” another child asked.
“Oh gosh, no!” one of the mothers piped up. “You kids have eaten enough
sugar tonight. Maybe Wacky Wendell will perform another less-caloric trick if
you ask him politely.”
“Please!” the children shouted. “Just one more!”
“I’d love to!” Artemas said, bubbling with delight that his magic was so
appreciated. “But what should I do?”
“Same trick, different piece of candy!” the first boy said, fishing out a cube
of caramel wrapped in plastic.
“Uh, maybe that’s not such a good idea,” Miss Mayfield said.
“Aw, just once more!” the boy pleaded, tossing the piece of caramel into the
air above the card table.
Artemas, caught up in the moment, waved his hand and shouted at the
piece of caramel as it shot toward the ceiling. “GLUVITYGUSRAGRO!”
Instantly, the candy cube twirled in place in midair as fast as a spinning top.
It expanded to the size of a basketball in mere seconds and cast a whirl of
shadows around the room as it continued to grow. All looked on
flabbergasted at Artemas’ amazing trick, and even the magician stood tall
and beamed with pride, gazing upon the faces of his awed spectators.
Then the spinning stopped. The onlookers gasped. The candy fell.
The caramel cube plummeted like a lead weight onto the card table and
flattened it to the floor, its metal legs spread out as if some mutant four-
legged spider had been crushed. The two giant pieces of candy corn were
squashed like wedding cakes, splattering chunks everywhere. The children,
mothers and Miss Mayfield all jumped back at once to avoid the collapsing
table and flying treats, then the children charged headfirst toward the
caramel and candy corn to collect their sugary shares with gusto.
“Stop climbing over everybody!” Miss Mayfield cried as she and the other
mothers tried to pull the children out of the goose pile. “You can’t eat all that
candy! Imagine the cavities!”
“This is the best Halloween ever!” one of the children shouted.
“I’ve never had so much fun!” another replied.
Miss Mayfield attempted to lift a smaller child off of the mountain of children
when a piece of candy corn the size of a softball popped into the air and
sailed her way. She caught it with one hand in the nick of time before it
splattered on the chair behind her, but lost her balance and tumbled over
backward onto the carpeted floor. Her reading glasses slipped off her nose
and she stared up at the ceiling with a horrified look in her eyes.
“This is not how a library party is supposed to be conducted,” she muttered,
taking a bite of the candy corn.
The door flung open at that moment as the children continued their screams
of delight. In walked Wendell the Wacky Wizard, dressed in a black cape
emblazoned with gold stars and crescent moons, and brandishing a magic
“Fear not, little ones, I’m here at last!” he exclaimed, then realized not a soul
had noticed him except for Miss Mayfield, who looked up from the floor with
a grimace stretching from one ear to the next.
“And who are you!” she demanded to know, getting to her feet.
“Why, Wendell the Wacky Wizard, of course. Sorry I’m late, but I had a flat
tire on the way and left my cell phone at home.” He looked at the bedlam
around the flattened card table. “Uh, what’s going on here? This is the
library Halloween party, isn’t it?”
“I thought it was at one time,” sighed Miss Mayfield. She slapped the blob of
candy corn into Wendell’s hand then pulled Artemas aside away from the
hysterical children. “Your name’s not Wendell?” she sternly asked.
“Certainly not. It’s Artemas. And he’s no wizard,” the magician said under his
breath, pointing to the real Wendell. “Just look at that ridiculous outfit he’s
“Then why are you performing magic tricks at my party?”
“Because, ma’am, you dragged me in here without listening to a word I had
to say.” Suddenly Artemas smiled. “But my performance was a hit, don’t you
“Well, yes it was…” Miss Mayfield replied with a hint of a smile too, gazing
into his ocean-blue eyes. Then she scowled as the commotion continued
unabated, signaling for one of the mothers to attend to the real Wendell
while she hustled Artemas out of the room and back into the main section of
the library. “That was quite a commotion you caused in there,” she
continued when they were alone near the encyclopedias.
“Simply stunning!” Artemas admitted, sensing that Miss Mayfield wasn’t as
angry with him as she pretended.
“I usually run a tight ship in my library, and peace and quiet is the number
one rule. And though I make exceptions for holidays and special programs,
well you, Mr. Artemas, just…”
“…bent that rule a bit too much perhaps?”
“Perhaps,” she said, brushing back her light brown hair and adjusting her
glasses, pretending not to notice Artemas grinning at her. “Anyway, just–just
don’t let it happen again.”
“Of course not,” Artemas replied, shaking his head with feigned
seriousness. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Very well. Now that we understand each other,” Miss Mayfield said, “why
exactly did you stop by my library?”
“To locate the Jordan family. They’re very dear friends of mine.”
Artemas quickly explained the situation to a sympathetic Miss Mayfield, who
felt that there should be no trouble finding them. She hurried over to one of
the computer terminals and sat down as Artemas eagerly watched her go to
“A few clicks of the mouse should tell us if they’re still in the area.”
“A mouse, you say?”
“You don’t use a computer much, do you, Mr. Artemas.”
“I’m afraid they’re not readily available where I come from.”
“And where’s that?” Miss Mayfield casually asked. “Where have you been
for the last four years?”
“It’s a long story,” he said uncomfortably. “I don’t think I should, um… Say,
what are all those numbers you’re typing?”
“The zip code for this city. And another click here and–ta-da! There are your
Miss Mayfield pointed to the Jordan family address on the computer screen.
“They are still living here in town. Only five blocks from the library as a
matter of fact. On Maple Street.”
“That’s a relief to know. I must talk to them at once. It’s very urgent.”
Miss Mayfield grew more curious by the minute about Artemas’ dealings with
the Jordan family, and was still mesmerized by his ability to perform such
magical tricks with so little effort. But she noted how troubled and anxious
he appeared again just as he had the moment he walked into the library.
She decided not to press him about his personal business and offered only
to help as best she could.
“I’ll draw a map for you, Mr. Artemas, and you’ll have no trouble finding their
A few moments later, she handed Artemas a scrap of paper with several
lines in blue ink sketched out and neatly labeled with street names. She
showed Artemas the direction to start in and traced his path to Maple Street.
“You have beautiful handwriting, Miss Mayfield. Quite elegant to be sure.”
“Why thank you, Mr. Artemas,” she said, once again lost in his eyes and
trying not to blush. “But please–call me Mina.”
“Only if you call me Artemas.”
“Of course,” she smiled.
“Well, I’d better be on my way then.”
“If you must…” she dreamily uttered until the ringing of the telephone
brought her back to her senses. “I mean, then you must! You’d better be off
and attend to whatever matters need–uh–attending to.”
“Thanks ever so much.”
“If there’s anything I can do for you again, well, don’t hesitate to stop by. We’
re open every day except Sunday. No appointment necessary.”
“Perhaps I’ll take you up on that offer, Mina. A pleasure meeting you, but
now I must be off. Goodnight.”
Artemas walked to the exit as Miss Mayfield hurried behind the main desk to
answer the telephone. She picked up the receiver and began speaking as
Artemas opened the front door and stepped outside, not before offering a
goodbye wave and a smile to Miss Mayfield. She waved back and sadly
watched him disappear into the inky darkness.
He found the correct house on Maple Street without a hitch. Artemas
studied the stone house set back on a large front lawn with two enormous
maple trees standing guard. They had shed some of their leaves which had
been raked into mountainous piles along the curb. A lamppost glowed softly
along a stone pathway leading to the front porch, where again, a trio of
glowing jack-o-lanterns awaited Artemas.
“I can’t imagine why these people place flaming candles inside huge orange
squashes,” he muttered as he climbed three steps onto the porch.
Artemas knocked gently on the door and a porch light popped on. A moment
later the door opened and Mrs. Jordan poked her head out.
“I’m sorry, but trick-or-treating hours ended at seven-thirty,” she said.
“Besides, we’ve run out of candy. The crowds were especially large tonight.”
“I’m not here to procure any candy,” Artemas replied. “I’m here to see you.”
“Well if you’re trying to sell something or collect for–”
Then Mrs. Jordan stopped speaking and stared at Artemas as if a long lost
memory was slowly reawaking in her mind. She again knew his face, his
eyes and that comforting smile. The past flooded back like a raging river.
She opened her mouth to speak but could say nothing for several moments.
“Honey, who are you talking to?” a voice called from inside.
Mr. Jordan walked up behind his wife and opened the door wider and saw
Artemas standing there like an ancient dream. His jaw dropped as he
instantly recognized his old friend.
“Good evening, Sam,” Artemas said as if he had spoken to him just the
other day. “How are things at the museum?”
“How–how–” Mr. Jordan scratched his head. “How did you get here,
Artemas? I thought that timedoors…”
“So did I, Sam.” Artemas shrugged. “Things I once thought to be true have
been turned upside down, and so, I’m here. I’ll explain everything.”
“Please do,” Mrs. Jordan said, signaling for him to come inside. “We’ll put
on some water for tea, Artemas, and you can explain away.”
More voices could be heard from inside, and then the rush of footsteps
toward the front door. Two people tried to squeeze between Mr. and Mrs.
Jordan to get a close up look at the Halloween visitor, and soon Artemas
was face to face with two older children who looked not quite familiar, yet
again, amazingly so.
“My, my,” Artemas whispered, staring with fondness and relief at
Christopher and Molly Jordan, who both smiled back at him with equal
affection. “You were running for your lives the last time I saw you those four
long years ago. I am quite delighted you made it safely back home.”
“By the skin of our teeth,” Christopher said, now fifteen and nearly as tall as
“What? No more pigtails?” Artemas asked Molly as she grinned like one of
the carved pumpkins.
“I’m twelve years old now, Artemas. I’ve outgrown pigtails long ago.”
“Oh, I see,” he said in mock seriousness, looking around at the new house
and his old friends. “I see a lot of things have changed since I last visited
your world. You’ll have to update me about even the tiniest details.”
“And you’ll have to tell us how and why you’re back,” Mr. Jordan said.
“Now that is an interesting story,” Artemas replied as the Jordan family led
him into the house for a cup of hot tea. “I hope you can spare a few hours.”