Chapter Two: A Terrible Crime

by Scotti Cohn
Copyright Scotti Cohn

copyright Christina Wald


Chapter 2
A Terrible Crime
Princess Rho stepped down from her throne. If Wordsworth hadn't known she was a princess, he would never had guessed it. She didn't wear a crown. She hated dressing up in fancy clothes with ribbons and jewels. Most of the time she wore a plain blouse and skirt, with her long hair in a simple braid down her back.

preliminary sketch of Princess Rho / copyright 2012 Christina Wald

"Something strange is going on," Wordsworth said. "Nobody is able to say the letter, by itself or as part of any word."
"The Royal Alphabet is mysterious," said Princess Rho. "Remember how it was made?"
Wordsworth nodded. He had heard the story many times. In the beginning, the people of Atoz had not talked to each other with words. They had growled and grunted like animals. Then one night, their king had a dream in which he saw 26 different shapes floating in the air. When he woke up, he began to carve the shapes out of huge blocks of wood. He made each carving as high as his waist and as wide as his shoulders.
After the king had finished several carvings, he noticed something odd: People were making sounds they had not made before. Not only that, they were putting the sounds together to make words. By the time the king was done with all 26 shapes, the people were speaking and writing in sentences. Everyone agreed that the Royal Alphabet was magic, and that it must be locked up and guarded at all times.
"Too bad you don't know how to fly like those birds you're always drawing," said Wordsworth. "From up in the sky you would be able to see more than we see down here."
Princess Rho smiled. "Yes, it's too bad, isn't it?"
"We've got to find the thief and make him return the letter!" declared Wordsworth. "I'm going to get my sword!"
"And I'm going to go find Mama and let her know what's going on," said Princess Rho. "She was taking a bath when the bells started ringing."
The entire palace was in an uproar. Lords and ladies scurried along the corridors as the great iron bells in the tower clanged. Wordsworth ran up the winding stairs to his room and grabbed his wooden practice sword. Out the window he saw knights on prancing warhorses gallop into the courtyard. In his hurry to join them, he crashed into the castle librarian, Lord Reading.
"A terrible rime has been ommitted!" the librarian wailed, waving a large book in the air. "Look at this poem!" He opened the book and turned it so Wordsworth could see.
Wordsworth didn't want to be rude, so he read the verse quickly to himself.
O let us walk beside the reek
My harming lass with rosy heek.
We'll sit beneath a herry tree
And feast on rakers, plums, and tea.
Most of it made sense to Wordsworth, but some of it didn't. He knew the last word in the first line should be creekHarming was supposed to be charming. Lord Reading turned the book back toward himself and read the next verse out loud:
"While hipmunks samper through the dale
We'll linger till the sun grows pale
To hear the hirping rikets praise
The simple harms of summer days."
The words sounded so silly to Wordsworth without the letter "C," he had to press his lips together to keep from laughing. Then he thought of something that wasn't funny at all: If the letter "C" was missing from books, how would he read his favorite stories about knights and dragons? It would take him forever to get through one page!
"Ruined! All ruined!" Lord Reading wailed. He dashed down the hall, waving the book in the air.
Wordsworth raced in the other direction. He was almost at the bottom of the winding stairs when he collided with Crump, the kitchen boy.
"Help me!" Crump cried, shoving a piece of paper under Wordsworth's nose. "I have to go to the market and get everything on this list. Only I don't understand what it says!"
Wordsworth sighed. At this rate, he would never get to the courtyard to join the knights. He stared at Crump's list:
  1. arrots
  2. hikens
  3. elery
  4. orn
  5. heese
  6. brooli
"Well, that first one is, you know, those long orange vegetables that you pull from the ground," he told Crump.
Crump nodded. "Oh, aye, that's what it is. I see now."
Wordsworth described each item on the list as quickly as he could. The last one was the hardest, until he finally realized it must be broccoli.
"Thank you!" the kitchen boy said.
"You're welcome, Rump," said Wordsworth.
Crump gave him a funny look.
"Sorry," Wordsworth mumbled.
He dashed down the remaining steps and out into the courtyard. Sir Clooney was nowhere in sight, and Wordsworth did not see a single knight.
"They've gone to hunt for the thief," said a voice. It was Phrasia, one of the palace maids.
Wordsworth's hopes sank. "I thought maybe one of them would let me ride with him."
"It is an awful thing, the letter being stolen," Phrasia said, leaning on her broom. "We keep trying to say words with that letter in them, but we an't."
Wordsworth laughed in spite of himself. "No," he agreed, "we an't."
"Who do you think took it?" Phrasia asked.
"Well, it would have to be somebody very strong," said Wordsworth, trying to sound important and smart. "And I don’t see how they would get all the way up to..." Suddenly an idea came to him. It was so obvious, he couldn't believe he hadn't thought of it before. "A dragon," he said. "I think a dragon must have done it."
Phrasia's eyebrows went up. "A dragon?"
"Yes," said Wordsworth. "Dragons fly, so it would be easy for them to get up to the window. And a dragon is strong enough to bend the bars. He would take the letter out through the window and arry it away."
"Hmmm," said Phrasia. "You may be right."
Wordsworth was surprised. He had never talked to anyone who believed there were still dragons in Atoz. He waited.
"I live on the edge of the Forest of Spells," Phrasia continued, "and from time to time I see strange traks -- large traks made by an animal with four long toes with sharp laws on the end."
Laws? thought Wordsworth. It took him a second to figure out what she meant.
"Those sound like dragon traks," Wordsworth said. He raised his wooden sword. "I'm in training to be a knight. I know how to fight dragons." 

Phrasia nodded. "I'll show you where I found the traks."

Discussion Questions for Chapter 1

copyright Christina Wald

Have you read Chapter 1 yet? If not, off you go. Hop over and give it a read:

_Chapter 1_

When you're done, come back here. You and your friends can talk about how you would answer these questions:

(1) How does Wordsworth feel about becoming a knight someday?

(2) What does Wordsworth think about dragons?

(3) Did you notice the names of the king and his daughter (Omicron and Rho)? What about the former ruler, Queen Gamma? Do you know where those names came from? (Hint: The book is about letters of the alphabet.)

(4) Why do Wordsworth and the king call Sir Clooney, Sir Looney?

(5) At the end of the chapter, King Omicron says: "They need to understand that this is a matter of extreme urgeny!" What is wrong with that sentence? (Hint: Look closely at the last word. What letter is missing?)

Chapter 1: The Missing Letter

by Scotti Cohn
Copyright Scotti Cohn

copyright Christina Wald


Chapter 1
The Missing Letter
The minute the bells began to chime their morning greeting, Wordsworth jumped out of bed. From his window on the next-to-top level of the castle, he could see the village of Atoz. Farmland stretched to the edge of the forest. In the distance, the tops of the green hills seemed to touch the sky.
Today is going to be a great day! Wordsworth said to himself. Today the king is going to let me ride Starfire, his favorite horse!
Although Wordsworth was only a page, he was in training to be a knight. King Omicron was teaching him to ride and how to use a sword and lance. He could hardly wait until he was big enough and old enough to go out into the kingdom and fight dragons.
"My dear boy," King Omicron had said to him, "there are no dragons in Atoz. There were a few a long time ago. They caused a lot of trouble back in the days of Queen Gamma -- but not any more."
Wordsworth wasn't so sure. He had heard stories about how sneaky dragons could be. What if they were hiding, waiting for a good time to attack? He wanted to be ready.
Suddenly the bells in the castle tower began to ring louder and harder than Wordsworth had ever heard before! His whole body vibrated with the sound, and his heartbeat raced. Was the castle under attack? Had the dragons come out of hiding? He threw on his clothes and ran to the throne room. 
preliminary sketch of Wordsworth / copyright Christina Wald
 Peeking in, he saw King Omicron talking to his chief advisor, Sir Clooney. The king's daughter, Princess Rho, sat beside her father. The princess was about the same age as Wordsworth, and the two of them often spent evenings together playing cards or drawing pictures. Wordsworth always drew dragons, each one more fierce than the last. Princess Rho liked to draw birds flying high in the sky or perched in trees.
"How did this happen?" the king shouted. His face was red. "The Royal Alphabet is guarded night and day!"
"The doors to all four rooms were barred and under guard, as always," said Sir Clooney. "But the bars on one of the windows were bent. The thief must have been very strong."
"Very strong and very tall!" the king exclaimed. "Otherwise, how did he get up to the window? The royal treasury is at the top of the tallest tower!"
Sir Clooney stood straight, his shoulders square. Even his dark gray beard looked stiff, like it was standing at attention, too. "We think the thief must have gone up the outside wall during the night," he said. "He bent the bars and took the letter out through the window."
King Omicron shook his head. "Impossible! The letters of the Royal Alphabet are at least three feet tall and made of the heaviest wood in the kingdom!"
Wordsworth couldn't believe what he was hearing. He had seen the Royal Alphabet a few times, thanks to Princess Rho. She had taken him up into the tower, and the guards had let them look inside the rooms. The letters were so tall and wide and thick, they reminded Wordsworth of furniture. Rho had joked that she would like to tip the letter "E" over on its side to make a table for her room. Wordsworth didn't see how anyone could have lifted something that heavy and carried it away, no matter how he got up to the window.
"Which letter is missing?" asked the king.
"The letter..." Sir Clooney struggled as if something was caught in his throat. He tried once, twice, three times. Finally he blurted, "The third letter, Your Majesty. The third letter has been stolen."
What's wrong with him? wondered Wordsworth. Why doesn't he just say the letter?
"You mean the letter..." Now King Omicron struggled and strained. He failed. "Great Gamma's ghost!" he roared. "This is a disaster! Summon all my knights! We must hunt down the thief!"
"Yes, Your Majesty," said Sir Clooney, bowing as he walked backwards out of the room. "Right away!"
Wordsworth stepped in. "Your Majesty?" he said.
"What? Oh, it's you, lad," said the king. "I suppose you heard everything. This is a terrible day for the Kingdom of Atoz!"
Wordsworth tried to look as tall and serious as possible. He wished that he had a straight, stiff beard like Sir Clooney. "Yes, Your Majesty," he said. "I know I am not a knight yet, but I would like to help Sir Looney--" He stopped.
King Omicron frowned. Wordsworth cleared his throat.
"I would like to help Sir Looney..."
"This is no time to make jokes," said the king. "Sir Looney is the ream of the rop." His hand flew to his mouth. "Great Gamma's ghost!" he exclaimed, his voice muffled by his palm. He jumped up and took his hand away from his mouth. "I am going to speak to the knights myself," he said. "They need to understand that this is a matter of extreme urgeny!"

Copyright Scotti Cohn

Behold the Cover!

Christina has completed the cover illustration in full color, and it's amazing -- from the dragon's poochy tummy to the detailed castle and town to Wordsworth astride his trusty steed, Klause.

copyright Christina Wald

We're closer than ever to putting together the final ebook. We're also going to offer some really cool extras like dragon jewelry and T-shirts, so tell your friends and be sure to follow this blog to receive updates!