Read Ravenspell Book 2: The Wizard of Ooze Online

Authors: David Farland

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BOOK: Ravenspell Book 2: The Wizard of Ooze
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“All right,” Lady Blackpool said in that stern voice she used when casting a spell, “all mice, out of the water!”

She raised her paw and from the depths of the torrent far downstream, young Thorn came shooting out of the water, onto the bank.

Ben and the other mice raced down to him and found Thorn lying there sopping wet. For what seemed like a hundred thunderous heartbeats, they watched his wet chest to see if it would rise and fall, watched his closed eyes to see if they would open. The water had darkened his fur, making it almost black.

He wasn’t breathing.

“He’s dead,” Amber cried. She turned to Lady Blackpool. “Can you help him?”

Lady Blackpool shook her head. “I’ve used a great deal of power in the past few days. Just flying here was hard enough. I can’t . . .”

Ben looked at the mice. They were somber, frightened. None of them could help Thorn.

He’s dead, Ben thought.

But he remembered some of his training from a Boy Scout class. What do you do with a drowning victim?

He rushed to Thorn, checked his throat to make sure that he hadn’t swallowed his tongue, and then turned him on his stomach.

He pushed on Thorn’s back so that he could clear the water from Thorn’s lungs. Little droplets dribbled out of his mouth onto the green grass.

That was all that Ben needed to do. Almost instantly Thorn coughed a bit, spitting out water. Then he gasped and sputtered and coughed and gasped again. In a moment he was sucking in huge breaths and weeping terribly.

“It’s a miracle!” some of the mice shouted. “Ben brought Thorn back from the dead! Hooray!”

“Sometimes,” Lady Blackpool said, “wisdom is better than magic.”

Ben felt grateful to have been here, to be a mouse, where he could be so much help.

Back when I was a human, I never saved anyone, he thought. And now I’ve helped save dozens of mice from the pet shop. They’ll live to a ripe old age because of me. And I just saved Thorn’s life.

He thought about Amber’s offer to turn him back into a human in two days.

Do I really want to go back to just being a kid? What would I do? Go to school? Watch television? Play video games? I’m aging fast as a mouse, Ben thought. I’ve already aged six months in human years. When I turn back into a human, won’t I be older and bigger? Will my clothes even fit me?

Then a dreadful thought hit him. When I turn back into a human, I might even have pimples and hairy armpits!

He peered down at his armpits. As a mouse, he had lots of hair there already.

Ben decided that he really did want to go back to being a human, but all of his reasons were selfish.

He wanted to feel safe again, not worrying about hawks and spiders. And he wanted a nice bed to sleep in and decent food.

He was sitting above Thorn, imagining the joys of home, when to his surprise Thorn began trying to crawl back into the stream.

Ben grabbed the smaller mouse and held him. Thorn was a youngster still, not even four weeks old. Keeping him down wasn’t hard.

“What are you doing?” Ben cried, and several other mice jumped on Thorn, who seemed intent on drowning himself.

“Got—got to go,” Thorn whispered. “Got to follow the song.”

“Song? What song?” Ben demanded.

But Amber said, “I hear it too. Can’t you hear it? It’s so pretty!”

Amber stood above Thorn, a dazed look in her eye, and her jaw fell open.

She began to sing,

Moonlight shines upon the meadow
And upon the garden green.
Come, sweet mice, taste the harvest,
Come to the garden of your dreams . . .

Amber took a few tentative steps east, as if she didn’t even see the water.

And that’s when Ben remembered the vision that Amber had told him about two days ago, when Amber had looked into the eyes of a newt. She’d seen mice heading to the east—the same direction that Thorn and Amber were trying to go.

Ben couldn’t hear very well. His walnut-shell helmet blocked out too much of the sound.

Maybe that’s why they hear it and I don’t, Ben realized.

Ben clapped his paws over Amber’s ears. Almost instantly, she seemed to come awake. Another mouse clamped his paws over Thorn’s ears, and he too seemed to recover.

“We’d better get back to the burrow,” Ben said, “and stay underground, so that you can’t hear this. We’ll need to make helmets for all of the mice.”

Lady Blackpool studied the scene. “That was wormsong you heard,” she said in a severe tone. “There’s magic in this, dark magic and evil . . .”

Chapter 4

AT THE HEART OF THE WORLD

Sooner or later, everyone responds to the call of evil.

—SEBACEOUS OOZE

The rest of the mice had surrounded the tarantula, poking their spears at its eyes and belly.

Far, far to the east, Sebaceous Ooze was slinking through his cave. With each wiggle, the magic ring that he wore on the tip of his tail clanked and thumped against the floor.

“We must join our powers together,” he told Fluke. “You and I are the last of the great Wyoming thunder worms.”

Fluke Gutcrawler asked, “What’s so special about being a thunder worm?”

Sebaceous Ooze’s dark countenance turned a darker shade of purple as he sought to control his rage.


We
are . . . better than other worms,” Sebaceous Ooze growled. “We are larger and more powerful. Once there were tens of thousands of us. And as we slithered across the tundra, the ground shook as if with the sound of thunder. We were the terrors of the earth, the rulers of the world.” He fell silent a moment, in reverie, then said with determination, “And we shall be again!”

Sebaceous Ooze began to cackle maniacally, but Fluke Gutcrawler only listened in silence.

“Are you sure that I have magic powers?” Fluke asked. “I mean, I haven’t seen any sign of them yet. I can’t drill through rocks like you do. I can’t summon mice.”

“Give yourself a few weeks, and you’ll be boring through boulders without so much as a grunt,” Sebaceous said. “As for the mice, well, that’s another matter.”

He whipped his tail around, showing Fluke his magic ring. It was small and black, forged from iron.

“There is only one of these,” Sebaceous said. “It is a ring of great power. A ring of mouse mesmerizing!”

The great worm whipped his tail away from Fluke’s face, as if afraid that Fluke might try to steal it.

A pair of mice was trudging across the path ahead. Sebaceous leaned forward and sucked them down his mouth as if he were a vacuum cleaner.

“Mmmm . . .” he whispered. “Savory mice, fresh from the meadow.”

Fluke Gutcrawler said nothing. He had never hungered for flesh. Right now, he really wanted a nice spring salad.

Fluke had many questions. He knew that his father wanted to create an army. And he already had control of millions of mice. But how did these things fit together? How did his father intend to take over the world?

A slobber goblin that had been following behind suddenly stepped in front of Sebaceous Ooze and peered up at him, trembling. The poor thing was vaguely man-shaped but was badly constructed. His face was lumpy, and one leg was too short.

“Oh great and wondrous wizard,” it begged, “what can I do for you to earn my heart’s desire?”

Sebaceous Ooze peered at the slobber goblin in surprise. “You have a wish?”

He turned to his son, Fluke. “Did you hear that? My little booger baby has a wish! I didn’t even know that a slobber goblin was capable of wanting something!”

“Oh your greatness,” the slobber goblin pleaded, “I do indeed have a wish.”

“Okay,” Sebaceous Ooze said, delighted to hear the creature beg. “Name it.”

“I wish,” the creature said, taking a deep gulp of air, “that you would turn me into a
real
boy.”

Sebaceous Ooze sighed and asked, “With all of the real boys in the world working so hard to be monsters, why would you—a wondrous monster—want to become a real boy?”

“Video games,” the slobber goblin said, a huge ball of worm slime suddenly dripping from its mouth. “I want to play video games all day and watch television. I want to wear stinky underwear and drink enough soda to rot my teeth. It’s boring down in this hole, filled with a foul smell and the leavings of old, dead worms!”

Sebaceous Ooze laughed evilly. Suddenly, his tail whipped from behind, slapping the poor slobber goblin and knocking it across the floor.

Sebaceous peered at the other goblins that had been slinking behind and said, “Take this one to the nearest boiling geyser and throw him in!”

“Does this mean no?” the slobber goblin pleaded, while its fellows surrounded it, lifted it, and carried it away, kicking and screaming.

Fluke looked at his father. He had many questions that he still wanted to ask, but now he was afraid. He didn’t dare anger Sebaceous Ooze.

* * *

Back in her living room, Latonia Pumpernickel watched her video on the tiny viewscreen, showing the mice doing battle with a tarantula.

On the phone she had the police chief for Dallas, Oregon.

“Could you at least send an officer by?” Latonia demanded.

“What for?” the police chief asked. “To watch a movie about mice fighting a tarantula? Send it to the Nature Channel.”

“But these aren’t just any mice,” Latonia said. “They’ve got some sort of genius mouse with them, an evil warlord, I’m quite sure.”

The police chief laughed a deep belly laugh. “Well,” he said, “if it’s genius mice that you’re having problems with, maybe you need a super-genius cat. Have you tried calling Garfield?”

The police chief slammed down the phone, leaving poor Latonia to sit there fuming with rage.

“Well,” she said, “if they won’t listen to me, then I’ll just have to
make
them listen.”

Chapter 5

A WORMY TAIL

Sooner or later, everyone is food for worms.

—SEBACEOUS OOZE

“It is a ring of great power. A ring of mouse mesmerizing!”

After a long day of sleep, Amber was wakened by the songs of young voles. This was the voles’ burrow, and Amber and her mouse friends were mere guests, so she couldn’t get mad at them for rising so early. Besides, the young voles were always so happy. They were dancing about the burrow now, singing—

Out of the burrow! Out of bed!
Why is everyone snoring?
Shadows grow long. The day is gone.
Why is everyone snoring?
The crow and hawk went with the sun,
Let’s raid the fields and have some fun.
Who will be first to eat a ton?
Why is everyone snoring?

The young voles looked like grayish brown mice except that their tails were shorter and their hair was more grizzled. They rolled about on their backs and giggled when they finished the song. Some voles turned somersaults, rolling about like wheels while their tails slapped the ground with each revolution.

Soon they stormed out of the burrow for the night, but Amber made sure that there were plenty of mice with spears to guard the young ones.

As the burrow quieted, a solemn counsel was held. A magic rock in the center of the burrow glowed like a star, lighting the faces of the mice and voles that remained.

“What do you know about worms?” Lady Blackpool asked them all from a quiet corner in the burrow. Her tone was very serious and hinted at something sinister.

Lady Blackpool drew back a bit.

Amber could see fresh claw marks on the walls of the burrow there among the small white roots that dangled overhead. The voles had been digging, expanding the burrow, but in doing so they had uncovered the roots, which looked uncomfortably like worms to Amber. Worm spies.

“I did a report on worms at school,” Ben offered. He frowned as if his memory felt kind of hazy. “The biggest worm in the world was found in South Africa. A woman saw it by the side of the road and thought it was a rope. She was going to use it to tie up her dog, but when she picked it up, she found out that it was a giant, dead worm. It measured twenty-four feet long.”

“Aye,” Lady Blackpool said. “Worms are ancient things and can grow to be large indeed.”

News of this frightened Amber. She’d never heard of such monstrous worms.

“Oh,” Ben remembered, “but there are lots of different kinds of worms! Some scientists say that if you took all of the worms in the world, they would weigh more than all of the rest of the animals put together. There are worms that can live in your stomach, or in a dog’s heart. There are carnivorous worms that eat bugs, and worms that swim in the sea, and worms that can eat your brain, and worms that glow in the dark.”

“Indeed,” Lady Blackpool said, eyeing Ben strangely. “Many and varied is the evil of worms. They can also be powerful magicians. Did you know that?” She looked around.

“No,” Amber said, for she had never heard of magical worms.

“Yes,” Lady Blackpool said, “they are powerful in the ways of magic. And they hunger for our flesh. But they are patient creatures, too. They know that each of us will die and that they will feast upon our flesh in the end. So seldom do they resort to violence.”

Bushmaster leaned forward and said, “Aye, most worms are patient, but not all. A worm may not have paws, but even a worm can be grasping.”

“Well put,” Lady Blackpool said. “We have just such an evil worm to deal with.”

Ben suddenly seemed to recall something else. “We have some of the biggest worms in the world living right here in Oregon! They’re called Oregon giant earthworms, and they can be three feet long, even when they’re not stretched out.”

Amber looked squarely at Ben and begged, “Is there anything else that you can remember—anything at all? It might be helpful.”

Ben searched his memory. “Yes,” he said. “There is one kind of worm that is more dangerous than all the rest: the Alaskan bull worm. I learned about it on
SpongeBob SquarePants.
It’s huge. Its tongue is longer than the bodies of most snakes, and if you try to fight one, you can grab its tongue, and then the worm will swallow you whole!”

The mice and voles that surrounded Amber trembled at the thought, and their eyes grew wide.

Poor Thorn fainted.

“Worms can indeed be cunning creatures,” Lady Blackpool said. “And dangerous. We must take care. They live beneath the ground, you know, and in the daytime they dig deep below and sing to each other, songs of loss and loneliness. Sometimes, you can hear them singing in their burrows. They also sing prayers of death and decay.”

“I’ve heard them,” Bushmaster affirmed, “many times. They long for the rotting of leaves, for the death of fleshy creatures. They sing of the feasts that will come at a time when all things are laid waste.”

That sounded ominous indeed. Lady Blackpool bent her head in thought. “Tonight,” she said at last, “Amber and Ben must begin a long journey so that they may replenish their spent powers.” Amber’s heart pounded in fear at the idea of being left alone in the wilderness with a bunch of wild worms. “But I will go with them, for tonight we must spy on this great worm and see if we can discover his plans.”

Upon learning that Lady Blackpool would come, Amber let out a long sigh of relief.

* * *

And so that night, they took their journey by starlight and moon glow. With Bushmaster the vole leading the way, Ben, Amber, Lady Blackpool, and Thorn climbed high into the hills and crept beside a streambed, where they watched a river otter diving into the black water and bringing up wriggling trout to crunch in his teeth.

A soft wind blew through the fir trees, as if the earth itself were breathing gently in its sleep.

They listened unafraid to the piercing cries of screech owls and the distant hoots of great horned owls and the gentle bark of the fox.

Ben relished the journey, especially the scents of the earth—ripening oat grass and vetch, muddy soil and bitter pinecones. Everything smelled so much stronger and more alive than it had when he was a human.

Perhaps, he thought, it is because as a mouse, my nose is always close to things—close to stink beetles that skulk about in the dark, close to the dirt and the dandelions.

And so in the night he found some wild strawberries by scent alone. They were on a bare patch of ground beside the river. The berries would have been tiny for a human, the size of the nail on Ben’s little finger. But one ripe strawberry was a feast for a mouse.

The night was uneventful for Ben, except as a small adventure. He couldn’t
feel
whether any magic was rubbing off on him. Only once, when they entered some dense woods and wandered through a grove of twisted yellow mushrooms, did Ben feel any profound silence, any sense that he might be in a place ripe with magic.

But it might have just been the quiet of the forest.

And so, as they traveled in almost total silence, Ben was free to think.

Benjamin Ravenspell wasn’t the kind of kid who had ever wanted to take over the world. Ben had never lain in bed at night plotting how to overthrow the town council, never imagined sending fleets of tanks across the Oregon border to capture Idaho. He hadn’t even wanted to run for class president at his school.

But now Amber wanted him to come up with a plan for world conquest, so he had a lot on his mind.

How can we take over the world? he wondered. Mice don’t have guns or tanks, but Amber does have magic powers. There are things that she
can
do that no human could.

For example, if Amber wanted, she could command an army of ants to attack a neighboring country or send out fleets of jellyfish to take over an enemy harbor or use swarms of mosquitoes as an air force.

In fact, Ben realized, humans never really thought about taking over the world in terms of conquering other animals. When they talked about taking over the world, it just meant that they wanted to beat up on other men.

They never wanted to subdue tribes of gorillas, never talked about brainwashing herds of deer.

But Amber could take control of other animals in ways that humans had never considered. She could even do spurious things. Why, if Amber wanted to, she could command the mindless devotion of all the world’s garden slugs!

Not that it would be a good thing, Ben thought. But there might be better things that Amber could do. For example, he imagined Amber riding on an elephant, a powerful elephant that could trample on Army Jeeps and turn over tanks!

That would be cool. And if she learned to raise the dead, why, she might even bring back some dinosaurs to ride. Ben imagined himself on the back of a T. rex as it rampaged through the business district of Salem, Oregon.

Dew had begun to collect on the grass when Lady Blackpool called a halt to their journey. They were high in the hills, near a puddle so small that only a mouse would think of it as a pond. Moonlight shone upon it, silvering its edges, and its surface reflected stars like a mirror. Deep, spongy moss grew around the pool in a broad expanse, and cattail reeds rose high in a circle, concealing the mice from every direction except from the air above. A single water strider danced upon the water.

“What we do now must be done in darkness,” Lady Blackpool announced dramatically. “And beware. There are dangers involved. I’m attempting to spy upon a powerful wizard. If you make any noise, he will be able to hear you, and he may attack. Do not speak. Do not cough. It would be helpful if you didn’t even breathe.”

Everyone stopped and looked at Thorn, who peered about fearfully.

Ben had learned over the past day that Thorn was a noise machine. If he wasn’t tripping or burping, then he was sniffling or humming.

“Why is everyone looking at me?” Thorn shouted.

“No reason in particular,” Lady Blackpool said.

With that, she raised a paw above the pool and began to sing a song that had no words, only notes, raw and powerful. A small wind rattled the reeds above them, and the ground trembled. The sky went inky, and a heavy silence enveloped the little clearing as Lady Blackpool’s voice fell silent.

Slowly a vision took form in the air all around them.

Ben had seen this kind of magic before, in Nightwing’s lair, and he wondered if it was an evil spell that Lady Blackpool had cast.

No, he decided, it wasn’t an evil spell. Lady Blackpool didn’t seem particularly evil. Maybe there was just power, raw power, and you could use it for evil or good. Like a shovel, Ben thought. You could use it to plant a garden, or you could use it to bash in the neighbor’s jack-o’-lanterns on Halloween night. But the shovel wasn’t evil or good. It was just there.

In the vision Lady Blackwell created, Ben found himself in a shadowed cave, as dark as a tomb. At first, he didn’t see much at all, but as his eyes adjusted, he saw a great worm sticking out of a dirt clod. The air around the worm felt heavy and suffocating, thick with sulfur, and he could feel the unnatural heat in the cave, as hot as a barbecue.

The great worm lay flaccid, as if his energy were spent.

The worm was huge, Ben decided. He was easily as long as a cobra, and in the dark, his skin looked as black as basalt. Ben didn’t know what kind of worm he was.

He might even be an Alaskan bull worm, Ben thought, nearly witless with terror.

Horrible creatures crouched around the worm, like fat little dolls made from mud. Some looked like the Pillsbury doughboy, only crueler and more savage in the face. A couple of these ambled about, carrying spears made from sharpened twigs. Some of the creatures looked like spiders with oat straw for legs, while others coiled about like snakes.

Monsters.

They didn’t seem to see Ben. It was almost as if he were invisible.

Of course, Ben realized. That’s why Lady Blackpool warned us to be quiet. They won’t know that we’re here unless we make some noise!

Aside from the sleeping worm and his evil little guards, there wasn’t much to see. Ben heard singing behind him.

Let us burrow; let us delve,
Digging deep like little elves . . .

Ben turned and found that it looked as if he were standing
inside
the worm’s lair. He could walk around inside the vision. Lady Blackpool had already gone to investigate the singing, and she stood at the mouth of a crevasse, peering down into a deep pit.

An army of mice was marching into the pit, singing as they went. Most walked in a trance, as if hypnotized. But some were obviously dead, their flesh rotting off, their hair falling out. Bones and teeth showed naked white, and the stench of decay filled the cave.

BOOK: Ravenspell Book 2: The Wizard of Ooze
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