What's Free Right Now?
A MAGICAL SCHOOL FOR MAGICAL FOOLS
Below, you can read an excerpt from A Magical School for Magical Fools, Book 2 in the Dragon Removal Service series. This is my second humorous fantasy novel. I am looking for beta readers if you have the time, and liked Dragon Removal Service. Contact me: email@example.com
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A Magical School for Magical Fools
No Magic. No Learning. No Fun.
Copyright (c) E.C. Stever 2019. All Rights Reserved.
Chapter 0: Gulchima Learns Shadow Boxing
It was important not to get eaten. In eleven-year-old Gulchima Brixby's long life—all sixteen years of it—she had only been eaten once, by a dragon, and that had been for a very short time.
But now, Gulchima had the oddest feeling. She suspected a second swallowing. And soon.
Just over the top rail of the ferry boat—which was really an enormous iceberg with enough seats carved into it to fit a three-hundred people—she could see the leviathans.
Leviathans! Giant fish of the Western Sea, that could swallow a dragon for breakfast and still have room for eggs. The leviathans didn't want to eat Gulchima necessarily, but they probably would, just in case she turned out to taste good.
The ferry boat taking her to Saaremaa Island was moved by oxen that walked in endless circles below the deck, powering the paddle wheels. Oxen-powered transport? Boats made of ice? Ridiculous.
Everything about the boat was silly, and inefficient, but its captain was the only one who would take her and Hubward and Uncle Rattbone as passengers, considering they had absolutely no money and in their grubby state, they looked like beggars.
And all she had to do was one small dangerous job for the captain, to pay for the passage. Then she could get to Saaremaa Island, where her parents were held.
Once there, Gulchima would free them from that prison. But that was for later.
Right now, she had a job to do.
Gulchima took a deep breath. How hard could it be? It's only magic.
She spun and headed down below the deck.
There, she would meet her shadow.
* * *
Everyone knew about shadows. And the first thing that everyone knew, was that shadows weren't really there.
So everyone knew not to worry about knocking your shadow on a table leg, or to show concern that your shadow was sitting in pudding, or worse, that it stretched out, thin and long, over a big steaming pile of giant rabbit poo on the side of the road.
A shadow was just a companion. You couldn't paint it, or brush it, or spray it with perfume. You couldn't give a shadow a make-over, so what did it matter?
It was just there. Or maybe, it was just not there.
So yes, everyone knew a shadow was usually nothing to worry about. But unfortunately for some, the word usually does not mean always.
Because sometimes, a shadow tried to kill you.
Gulchima jumped away, just as a box smashed against the floor of the cargo hold. Her foot slipped on the mushy sawdust covering the ice.
The shadow shook its fist at her.
"I thought you two kids had experience in this sort of thing," Captain Chapman yelled, his breath puffing out in big angry clouds. "I can't take you to the island, if that shadow smashes up all my cargo!"
Gulchima looked at Hubward, who was picking sawdust out of his hair. In a loud voice she said, "We do. We've just never dealt with this shade of shadow."
Captain Chapman grunted. "Just my luck. My shadow always was a bit darker than others."
"There's more than one kind of shadow?" Hubward whispered. He glanced behind him, and tried to pinch his shadow.
"Just go with it," Gulchima whispered back. "We needed to get on this ferry somehow. So I told the captain we were shadow repair experts."
A second box exploded against the icy wall. Much of the cargo had already been smashed up, and as the boat creaked and cracked, the loose items rolled across the icy floor, coating themselves with wet sawdust.
"Shadow repair? That's worse than your dragon removal idea," Hubward said. "Why didn't we just buy tickets?"
"Because you lost all of our money to that squirrel!" Gulchima yelled.
"He looked honest!" Hubward said. "He had an honest face."
"How can a squirrel look honest?" Gulchima asked. She ducked under a buoy that was tossed at her head.
"The same way he can cheat at cards!"
They retreated by crawling on their hands and knees, and they met Captain Chapman at the stairway that led to the ferry's deck. Like most of the boat, the stairs were made of ice.
"So, how long will it take?" Captain Chapman asked. He was a big man, with a bigger belly, but he seemed light on his feet. This was likely because he floated a few inches above the ground.
"Well for a shadow of this strength, it may take a few hours," Gulchima said, trying to keep a straight face. "How did this happen, exactly?"
"A Midnight Squid attacked me on my first ferry boat ride to the island," Captain Chapman said. He sighed loudly, and his breath smelled of coffee and sausage. "I jumped, but my shadow didn't . . . Of course, now we're smarter. We use boats made of ice and the squids can't find us. Usually."
"Hmmm. Have you considered not getting back your shadow?" Hubward said. "You don't actually need a shadow, you know."
"Don't need a shadow! What kind of shadow experts are you?" Captain Chapman snapped. "I'm a sea captain. If I worked indoors it might be a good thing, but without my shadow to anchor me to the ground . . . ."
He pointed at a black cloth that trailed behind him. It was roughly the shape of him, and filled with bars of lead. He'd tied the black cloth to the cuffs of his pants.
"Without this faux-shadow, I'd be hitting my head on the roof," Captain Chapman said. "Or just floating away!"
"Faux-shadow?" Hubward asked.
"My partner is confused. We call a fake shadow, a sha-don't," Gulchima said smoothly. "But we get the idea." She stepped on Hubward's foot so he would stop talking.
"Sha-don't?" Hubward said. "Oh, I get it!"
Captain Chapman floated up the stairs. "I'll give you one hour before I toss you off my boat. There's heavy weather ahead. The other sailors might think it's my fault, what with these magical waters, and my lack of shadows, and that terrible island . . . you know where we're heading of course. That island with all the magical wack-a-doos. It's hard enough getting help on this trip, with a boat made of ice, and a boiling sea. Now I got shadows running around stealing people's underwear."
"Underwear? Whose underwear?" Hubward asked.
Captain Chapman frowned, then scratched his bottom. "Mine!"
There was a blast of sunlight as the captain opened the doors and left.
And then the doors slammed behind him, and Gulchima and Hubward were alone in the frozen belly of the ice cold boat.
The unattached shadow came towards them.
It didn't make a sound of course, but from the way it shook its shoulders, Gulchima had the impression that the shadow was giggling.
And this time it held an axe.