More books by Paul Maguire: Professor Atlas and the Summoning Dagger, Kid in Chief, Professor Atlas and the Jewel of Enlightenment, The Genie Loophole

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$14.95 / Perfectbound
ISBN: 9781457517136
272 pages
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Excerpt from the Book

THIN RAYS OF late-afternoon sunlight seeped through the dirty windows of the Wolf and the Lamb, highlighting the dust particles that floated lazily about the dim room. Tyler Gerard sat in the booth next to his best friend, Brandon Giles, and across from Professor Fielding Atlas. Above their table hung a sign that read, simply, “This shall be opened by the Dagger Holders.” The pub’s ten other booths were unoccupied.

“So,” said Tyler, “is there any chance that was all a dream? Or did we really just take a little vacation to the Middle Ages?”

Professor Atlas smiled faintly. “If it was a dream, Tyler, then Brandon and I, incredibly, had the same dream. Not to mention the souvenirs we brought back with us.” He gestured toward a dark wooden box sitting open on the table in front of them. “Hard as it is to believe, time travel is the most logical explanation we have.”

The box contained some ordinary objects—walkie-talkies, a pack of gum, a few other things—and one very unusual item. Professor Atlas reached into the box and pulled out the tarnished metal tin and held it up, gazing at it with an expression of awe.

“The powder in this little tin,” said the professor, “surpasses anything modern science has been able to create. This powder… this omnilinguistum, is as much magic as it is science. Burn it, inhale the fumes, and you will be fluent in the next unfamiliar language you hear. It seems impossible.… It’s a vapor that implants knowledge into the human brain.” Atlas lowered his eyes to look at the boys. “A wizard made this. We didn’t dream it up. And the wizard has been making his way around the modern world since 1985. I think we need to go to Japan to find Mercastus and see what’s up.” Atlas leaned slightly to the left as he slid the tin container into his hip pocket.

“Count me in!” exclaimed Tyler. “Let’s inhale us some multilinguistus and head on out to Japan!”

Brandon turned toward Tyler. “It’s called omnilinguistum, not multilinguistus. And I don’t think we should use it here, in the middle of twenty-first–century England. Let’s save it for when we need it, like when we get to Japan.”

“So we’re all agreed, then?” said Professor Atlas. “We’re headed for Japan to see what Mercastus needs?”

“Awesome,” said Tyler. “But I need to ask.… Mercastus is a wizard. Why doesn’t he just zap us over there? Or zap himself here and fly us back? How come we have to travel like regular people?”

Professor Atlas leaned back, seeming to consider the question. “Well, the omnilinguistum is quite impressive. And he did put together the Summoning Dagger to get us back to the fourteenth century to begin with. Add to that the other things we saw him do … controlling peoples’ minds, shifting rooms and staircases… all amazing things. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no limit to his abilities. He already told us that he hasn’t mastered time travel, and I’m sure transporting people over whole continents must be a tough one. After all, he’s not some mystical sorcerer from a fantasy movie. He’s a real man, only one who has developed his wizarding skills remarkably.”

“Don’t forget whatever spell he put this thing under,” added Brandon, nodding toward the wooden box. “He gets that bartender to hang it on the wall in 1985, and nobody can get it down or open it until we come along with the dagger. Also a pretty good trick, I’d say.”

“Speaking of the bartender…” said Tyler, watching a door at the rear of the pub. A heavyset man wearing black pants and a crisp white shirt emerged from the back room. He was holding a bulky black camera that appeared to be about twenty years old.

“Sorry ’bout the long wait, gents,” the bartender said, hastening toward the booth. “Took me a while to find me camera back there. Never much to photograph around these parts, I’m afraid. Until now, of course.” The bartender reached the booth, and Tyler could see a thin layer of sweat glistening on his balding head. The bartender placed the camera on the table and paused with his hands on his hips, looking down at Atlas, Tyler, and Brandon with a blank expression, as though he were lost in thought. Then he suddenly snapped out of it and raised a thick hand, slapping himself sharply on the forehead.

“Oh, dear, where’s me manners?” muttered the bartender. “Sitting here in me pub are the pride a Briarhall … three blokes who’s nothin’ short of heroes, openin’ the dagger box an’ all… an’ I don’t even have the good sense to introduce meself.” He thrust a hand in Professor Atlas’s direction and said, “Me name’s Stack. Bart Stack. Pleased to make yer acquaintance.”

“Fielding Atlas,” replied the professor, shaking Bart Stack’s hand. “And these are my friends Brandon Giles and Tyler Gerard.”

“An honor, gentlemen,” said Stack. “Now, allow me to get somethin’ for ya from the kitchen. On the house, of course. The men who accomplish what many have failed at for these many years shall receive a complimentary meal. Least I could do for the Dagger Holders, I say!”

Professor Atlas raised his eyebrows. “Complimentary? That’s very generous of you. In that case, why don’t you bring us some of your classic pub fare… bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips.… But I’m afraid we’ll have to pay you something for it….”