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Fleeing from the ruins of New Undertown, Rook Barkwater and his colleagues the librarian knights, Felix Lodd and his banderbear friends must lead the escaping population to a new life in the Free Glades. But perils aplenty are ahead for the crowd not to mention some goblins with plans of their own. This is the dramatic and exciting conclusion to the Rook Barkwater sequence that takes the reader on a thrilling journey across the Edgeworld. From the Hardcover edition.
Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell are the creators of the Far-Flung Adventures and the Barnaby Grimes series.
* Chapter One *
The Armada of the Dead
'What are we going to do?'
Deadbolt Vulpoon turned from the cabin window and glared at the thin quartermaster who had just spoken.
'The storms over Undertown are growing, if anything,' said a cloddertrog in a bleached muglumpskin coat.
The other sky pirates at the long table all nodded.
'And there's nothing moving on the Mire Road,' he added. 'All trade has stopped dead.'
The nodding turned to troubled muttering.
'Gentlemen, gentlemen,' said Deadbolt, resuming his seat at the head of the table. 'We are sky pirates, remember. Our ships might no longer fly, but we are still sky pirates. Proud and free.' His heavy hand slammed down on the table so hard, the tankard of woodale in front of him leaped up in the air. 'And no storm--dark maelstrom or not--is going to defeat us!'
'I repeat my question,' said the thin quartermaster with a supercilious sniff. 'What are we going to do? There are over thirty crews in the armada. That's three hundred mouths to feed, three hundred backs to clothe, three hundred purses to fill. If there is no trade on the Mire Road, then what shall we live on? Oozefish and mire water?' He sniffed again.
'No trading, no raiding,' said the cloddertrog.
Again, the assembled sky pirates nodded in agreement.
Deadbolt Vulpoon grasped the tankard and raised it to his lips. He needed to collect his thoughts.
For weeks, the dark clouds had gathered on the far horizon at the Undertown end of the Great Mire Road. Then, two days ago, the huge anvil formations of cloud had merged into the unmistakable menacing swirl of a dark maelstrom.
Sky help those caught underneath, he'd thought at the time.
Now Undertown was lost from view and the Mire Road was deserted. A great shryke battle-flock had disappeared in the direction of Undertown just before the storm struck, and then the remaining shrykes from the tally-huts had retreated back to the Eastern Roost . . .
Deadbolt took a deep draught from the tankard and slammed it back on the table. 'I have sent out another raiding party,' he announced with a confidence he didn't feel. 'And until we get to the bottom of this, I for one don't intend to panic.'
'Raiding party!' snorted the thin quartermaster, pushing his chair noisily back and climbing to his feet. 'To raid what?' He paused. 'I hear there's opportunities opening up in the Foundry Glades, and that's where my crew are headed. And you're all welcome to join us!'
He strode from the cabin.
'Gentlemen, please,' said Deadbolt, raising a hand and motioning to the others to remain seated. 'Don't be hasty. Think of what we've built up here in the Armada. Don't throw it all away. Wait until the raiding party returns.'
'Until the party returns,' said the cloddertrog as the sky pirates got up to leave. 'And not a moment longer.'
As they trooped out, Deadbolt Vulpoon climbed to his feet and returned to the window. He looked out through the heavy leaded panes at the Armada of the Dead beyond.
What exactly had they built up here? he wondered bitterly.
When stone-sickness had begun to spread through the flight-rocks of the sky ships, he and the other sky pirates had read the writing on the wall. They came together and scuppered their vessels, rather than letting sky-sickness pick them off one by one.
The hulks of the sky ships had formed an encampment in the bleak Mire, and a base from which to raid the lucrative trade along the Great Mire Road. It wasn't sky piracy, but it was the closest thing to it in these plagued times. And sometimes, when the mists rolled in and the wind got up, he would stand on his quarterdeck and imagine he was high up in Open Sky, as free as a snowbird . . .
Vulpoon looked at the grounded vessels, their masts pointing up so yearningly towards the sky, and a lump formed in his throat. The ships still bo
Excerpted from Edge Chronicles: Freeglader by Chris Riddell, Paul Stewart All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.