Today, I want to share with you a few of my favorite parts of Brumbletide and the Triad Champion. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2 that I laugh at every time I read it. Poor Maggie. Enjoy!
My first class is Hoplology with Atticus and Thorn. We are freezing—absolutely freezing. The weather is frosty, and we are all gathered on carpets in midair in front of Queen Mother Berthilda. Two or so dozen young royals are bundled in white furs and huddled two or three to a carpet held by Snickerlings. The magical flying children are dressed in no more than their usual patchwork attire and seem unfazed by the cold.
Four Snickerlings hold Queen Mother Berthilda’s carpet in front of the others while she raises her large arms to get everyone’s attention.
“Hear, hear! Attention, your majesties! As many of you know, the one hundred and seventy-fifth Em Games are right around the corner. In preparation, we will be performing exercises more daring than usual. We break the ice today with Tower Climbing.”
Gasps escape from around the carpets. Even the Snickerlings appear a little worried and lean in to whisper what I gather to be consoling words to their passengers.
“Now, now, not to worry, class. You will be monitored the whole time, and if you happen to fall, Snickerlings will come to your rescue immediately. Any questions?” Queen Mother Berthilda scans the class.
“Has anyone died before?” shouts Eden Kung over the wind.
Berthilda considers his question as if she isn’t sure whether to answer honestly. “Yes, some have. None in the past few years though.”
There have been no games in recent years! The last were twelve years ago!
“And if the worst should happen, what a way to go, eh?” The Queen Mother flashes a toothy smile reciprocated by no one. “Right. Now, everyone, do your very best—especially you, Champions. Let this not be the year we break our Triad winning streak.”
“Yeah!” shouts Atticus. “Let’s do it, Champs!” A few other Champions whistle and applaud as well.
Meanwhile, I haven’t gotten past the name of the event—Tower Climbing. My head is back as far as it will go as I take in the massive monstrosity that is George Tower. It can’t mean what it sounds like, can it?
“For those of you unaware,” pipes Queen Mother Berthilda, “Tower Climbing is exactly as it sounds. You will be climbing George Tower.”
Pushing Thorn out of the way, I lean over and puke off the side of the carpet into the Lux below.
“Maggie!” shouts Atticus. “Are you alright?”
I sit back up woozily. “No.”
“Blimey,” mumbles Thorn, checking her gown for vomit.
Atticus nudges my shoulder and whispers, “Heights are my greatest fear, but I’m going to suck it up and go first since I’ll be leading the Em Games and all.” He raises his hand.
“Yes, Prince Atticus? Oh, are you alright, Princess Maggie? You’re green.”
I lean over and puke again.
“Eesh, let’s trade places,” says Thorn, crawling to the center of the carpet.
Atticus waits a second to show a little concern but no longer. “I volunteer to go first, Queen Mother Berthilda.”
“How wonderful. Your carpet can come forward then.”
To my horror, the Snickerlings fly us to the ledge at the bottom of George Tower. A large stone winged hound—George’s warmouth—sits at the corner permanently fixed on Little Ipswich.
Queen Mother Berthilda’s carpet hovers next to ours.
“Our brilliant ancestor, King George, designed his tower to be climbed. There are grooves all around it for your hands and feet. The things to overcome are the wind, your lack of strength, and, of course, your own fear. Prince Atticus, godspeed.”
Without hesitation, Atticus grabs hold of the hound and pulls himself onto the ledge. He catches a glimpse of the Lux far down below on his way, and a flash of panic sweeps his face. But without closing his eyes, he takes a deep breath and stands up straight. Immediately, he begins climbing fast up the tower. His small frame is of benefit to him here. He stumbles once, and Snickerlings lunge forward, but he immediately regains his footing and continues upward at an impressive pace. Before long, Atticus has made it halfway up the tower and waves to us from what is certainly two hundred feet in the air.
“Bravo! Bravo, Prince Atticus! And a Champion, no less,” Queen Mother Berthilda shouts gleefully.
Snickerlings soar to Atticus and bring him down safely to our carpet. In the snowy wind, he is sweaty and out of breath.
He swats the air. “Wasn’t anything. A nice warm-up.”
Thorn is next. She doesn’t seem happy about the task but not terrified either. Quietly, she steps onto the ledge and is smart enough not to look down. Not so quickly as Atticus, but at a decent pace, she climbs the tower.
“Steady, calculated, precise— the Firebreather way,” Berthilda tells us quietly as if not to disturb Thorn’s concentration.
Eventually, Thorn reaches the halfway point and raises her hand.
“Well done, Princess Thorn!” Berthilda shouts as Snickerlings fly her to the carpet.
“Next we have—” She pauses because I’m apparently still green. “Princess Maggie.”
I hoist my body, which seems to weigh a ton, onto the ledge and cling for dear life to the wings of the stone hound. I feel woozy and, without meaning to, catch a glimpse of how high I am. Puke immediately projects into the air and makes its way into the carpets holding my classmates who squeal in disgust. I close my eyes and breathe, trying to compose myself, and when I feel the first bit of relief, turn and mount the tower.
Atticus and Thorn have deceived me. Even pulling myself onto the tower takes all my strength, and my arms are already burning as I hold myself up. The flag marking halfway up the tower seems a mile high. I’ll never make it. I won’t even make it five grooves in. I let go of a groove and immediately grab the next closest. My legs and arms are trembling, and my body is getting heavier by the second. I’ve never been athletic—how am I going to do this? Atticus and Thorn must have done this before. Yes, of course, they have!
With my arms already so fatigued that I can’t raise a hand, I yell, “I can’t do it! My arms are giving out!”
In a blink of an eye, I am in the arms of Snickerlings and then back with Thorn and Atticus on the carpet. I don’t feel that ashamed when Queen Mother Berthilda doesn’t give me a “good try” or anything, but little do I know the shame will grow heavier and heavier as every single student climbs high onto the tower. Even Eden, whose fear had him crying on his way up, made it to the flag. I alone was the only one not strong enough to do it.
And I am supposed to be the Head of Emily Castle. Pathetic.
Have yet to discover the magic of Brumbletide? Find it here!