The Story So Far

ProsperoSeveral centuries (or so) ago, in a country whose name doesn't matter, there was a tall, skinny, straggly-bearded old wizard named Prospero, and not the one you are thinking of, either.

Prospero lived in the South Kingdom in a ridiculous doodad-covered house filled with the paraphernalia of a practicing sorcerer.... He's hero Number 1. Hero Number 2 is Roger Bacon, Prospero's longtime friend and learned necromancer.... In the frosty North Kingdom lived the wizard Melichus. The story begins in Prospero's home when he and Roger Bacon are reunited after a long separation. The two old friends should have been enjoying themselves, but actually they were both scared silly. Outside, inside, seeping around them in the weird, wailing night, was a Presence as cold as hell itself. The wizards tried chant after chant in corrupt Coptic but nothing did any good. The Thing was closing in.



"This is a great example of Bellairs's quirky, hodge-podgey style...although it sounds like the usual sword-and-sorcery kind of thing, it isn't at all - but it is considered a classic of fantasy literature." - Jean (Howling Frog Books)



He looked absently around the cellar as he waited for the pitcher to fill, and suddenly his eye was caught by the fluttering of an old cloak hanging on a wooden peg. And in that instant Prospero got the odd notion that the cloak was not his, and might not be a cloak at all. He stared intently at it as the fluttering of the garment became more agitated. And then it turned to meet him. With empty flopping arms it floated across the cellar floor, swaying in a sickening nightmare rhythm. Prospero clenched his fist and felt his pulse beating in his palms; he fought the rising fear as the cloak flapped nearer, for with all his heart he did not want it close to him. As it closed the gap between them, all the spells against apparitions ran through his mind, but he had the queasy feeling that none of them would work. The thing was about six feet from him, its cold musty-cellar breath faintly brushing his face, when it simply stopped. The flapping arms dropped, and the gray cloak, or whatever it was, slumped into a ragged heap on the stone floor. Prospero stepped back nervously and stiffened as he felt a cold sensation. But when he looked down he laughed abruptly, since he had stepped into the spreading brown pool of ale that was now sloshing and frothing over the sides of the pitcher. He shut off the spigot and leaned, trembling, against the barrel, his forehead pressing the fragrant wet wood. When he looked again at the place on the floor where the cloak had fallen, he was not surprised to see that there was nothing lying on the rough candlelit stone. The peg where the cloak had first hung was not there either.

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