When the letter "C" is stolen out of the Royal Alphabet, the Kingdom of Atoz is thrown into a panic. No one can say or write the letter, and it has vanished from all the books in the kingdom. Heedless of the danger that awaits him in the Forest of Spells, a young page named Wordsworth sets out to recover the letter on his trusty steed, Klause, a goat-like creature called a cavabok.
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!
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.
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."
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.
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
preliminary sketch of Wordsworth / copyright Christina Wald
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!"
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."
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
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."
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
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.
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?
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!"
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
King Omicron frowned. Wordsworth cleared his throat.
"I would like to help Sir Looney..."
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!"