Middle grade novel involving two young boys' adventure with a famed explorer.
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In 1342, an old wizard stands atop a pile of rubble that was once a bustling village, complete with happy citizens, a vibrant marketplace, and a mighty castle. Cursing the conflict that brought this civilization to an untimely end, the old wizard bestows his last bit of magic on a spectacular dagger. He buries the dagger deep within the earth, praying that one day it will be found by somebody brave enough, and smart enough, to save the village from ruin.
Centuries later, Tyler Gerard and his best friend Brandon Giles enter a contest, the prize for which is the opportunity to join legendary explorer Professor Fielding Atlas on his quest to find the Summoning Dagger of Mercastus. Although both boys have the full and active imaginations that are typical of seventh graders, nothing will prepare them for the incredible adventure that lies ahead…
Professor Atlas and the Summoning Dagger will plunge you into a long-forgotten world and then make you feel at home, with a colorful cast of benevolent noblemen, plotting traitors, an obnoxious jester, and a teenaged girl who is as sharply insightful as she is handy with a crossbow. Professor Atlas, with his extensive academic knowledge and his impressive resourcefulness, serves as the perfect guide who will steer you through all of the perils and pitfalls.
Join Tyler and Brandon as they embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Starting out as two ordinary seventh-graders with a shared admiration for a clever, yet thoughtful and considerate role model, they eventually learn that the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders. In order to save the village of Hallswich, though, they must successfully navigate a strange world filled with thuggish henchmen, scheming evildoers, and one seemingly vicious knight.
Professor Atlas and the Summoning Dagger is a thrill ride that never disappoints. It is a story of friendship, loyalty, and honesty, with danger lurking behind every corner, and a whole lot of fun every step of the way.
Elsa gave Tyler and Brandon a full tour of the house. Osgood’s home was, by medieval Hallswich standards, a place of luxury. It had an upstairs with four bedrooms and a downstairs with separate cooking, eating, and sitting rooms, as well as sleeping quarters for the four household servants. A short stone wall enclosed a large, private yard.
After the tour Elsa led them outside, where Henry and Roland were sitting on the stone wall. “I am grateful that you have been too polite to do ask,” Elsa said, “but I can tell that you have been wondering where my mother has been all this time, and why I am the woman of this house at age fourteen.” Tyler felt a jolt, and he started to blush. He actually had been wondering about Lady Osgood’s whereabouts, but how could this girl have known that? He was thrown by Elsa’s seamless shift from polite courteousness to sharp insight. She offered a faint smile, easing Tyler’s embarrassment.
“Sadly, my mother is no longer with us. We lost her on the same day Roland was born ten years ago. My memories of her are few, but they are very happy ones. Father tells us the most wonderful stories about her.”
“Oh,” said Tyler, “I, ah… I’m sorry to hear that. But why…”
“I felt the need to tell you this, Tyler from London, because your curiosity was glaring, and I believe in using candor to dismiss awkwardness. I hope this makes your visit to our home more comfortable. We are a happy family, and though we miss my mother quite deeply we are blessed with other good fortune.” Elsa began to walk towards the entrance. “I must go inside and rest now,” she said. “You should stay and get to know my brothers.”
Elsa stepped back into the house, and Tyler and Brandon turned their attention to the brothers.
Roland sat on the wall, his face etched with an expression of pure misery. He was wearing the same blue shirt that he had donned the day before, but his right pant leg had been cut off to make room for a splint.
“Um… how does your leg feel?” asked Brandon.
“Just awful,” replied the young boy. “The bonesetter took nearly an hour to align the bones properly. Never before had I felt such agony, and I still throbs as we speak. This splint is most uncomfortable, as well. It consists of hard wooden planks tightly wrapped with many layers of wool… enough to make me feel as though my leg is made of wood. And I am having much difficulty using the crutch.” He nodded his head towards a thick, carved branch resting beside him.
“You will heal quickly,” said his brother, Henry. “Father has told me that young bones repair themselves faster than older ones, and healed ones are stronger than those that have never broken.”
“It’s true,” said Tyler. “When my cousin broke his leg skiing…” He realized his mistake as Brandon shot him an alarmed look. “… I mean, uh… fleeing. He was fleeing some… ummm… ruffians. Yeah, ruffians. Rough guys… I mean, rough men. He was running away from some very rough men, and he fell and broke his leg. His mother brought him to the hospi… the, uh, bonesetter, and he got a splint put on. His leg healed… um… really quickly.”
Henry eyed Tyler. “You people from the city have an unusual way of speaking.”
Brandon hastily answered. “Yes, some say that is indeed true. We are always trying to experiment with new ways to use our language. We think that such an activity is cool.”
“Cool?” asked Henry.
“Yes,” said Brandon. “That is our word for ‘interesting’.”
Tyler grinned. “That’s right. And if something is unique, we say that it is ‘groovy’.”
“Groovy. I like that,” said Henry. “Any others?”
“If somebody is brave,” said Tyler, “We call him a ‘knucklehead’.”
“And that is all of them,” said Brandon, shooting Tyler an annoyed look. “We have no more that we can think of at the moment.”
“Well, I think that your manner of speech is most groovy,” said Henry.
“Yes!” piped in Roland. “And after my gruesome injury in the forest, I believe that I am the biggest knucklehead in all of Hallswich!”
Henry rounded on Roland. “You cannot become a knucklehead just by falling out of a tree. I am your older brother, and have thus experienced more things than you. Clearly, I am twice the knucklehead you are.”
Tyler could barely suppress his laughter, and Brandon rolled his eyes. Eager to change the subject, Brandon said, “So, what kind of games do children enjoy in Hallswich?”
“I enjoy wrestling, and hoodman’s blind, and prisoner’s base,” said Henry, “but those are activities that would exclude my brother due to his injury. Perhaps we could play queek.”
“What is queek?” asked Brandon, intrigued.
“You do not know of queek?” squawked Henry. “And I thought Londoners were advanced. Let us show you the game. I’m sure you will find it to be quite groovy.” He turned to trot towards the house.
As they waited, there was an awkward silence. Roland stared sullenly at the ground for a long moment until finally he asked them, “Do you boys think that I am a knucklehead?”
“Yes,” said Tyler. “You are indeed one of the biggest knuckleheads I have ever met.”
Roland’s face brightened. “Thank you for your kind words. Ah! My brother returns with a queek field.”
Henry approached them, carrying with him a blanket which was decorated with a checkerboard pattern. “The game of queek, my cool friends, is played as such,” he announced. “This blanket is spread on the ground, and players throw stones at it from a distance. The object is to predict whether the stone will land on a black or a red square.”
“How groovy and cool,” said Tyler.
After several rounds of queek, the boys wanted to play another game. “We could use the queek field to play a game of checkers,” said Brandon.
Roland, who had been participating in the rounds of queek from his seat on the wall, looked puzzled. “Checkers? I must say I have not heard of that one. Perhaps it is known only to city children.”
“It is not very difficult to learn how to play,” said Brandon. “There are two players, each of whom starts with twelve red or black playing pieces. Each player arranges his pieces, called checkers, on the black squares closest to his side of the board. At first, you may advance your checkers diagonally, but…”
“After reaching the last row on your opponent’s side,” interrupted Henry, “your piece is crowned and may move backwards or forwards. In the process your goal is to jump over your opponent’s pieces, thus removing them from play.”
Brandon smiled. “Did you just guess at the rest of the rules after I began explaining it to you?”
“No,” replied Henry, “but we play the same game here. Only we call it ‘draughts’. It is quite a popular game, actually. I have the pieces inside the house. I shall fetch them.”