The Power

The Power
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Sometimes one hero isn't enough – sometimes you need a full dozen. Mack’s search for his dazzling dozen continues in the fourth instalment of this funny, action-packed fantasy series by the New York Times bestselling author of GONE.Time is running out for Mack MacAvoy and the magnifica! It seems the only way they can defeat the Pale Queen and her evil daughter Risky is to learn the magical language of Vargran. So Mack, Jarrah, Xiao, Dietmar and Stephan travel to Europe to find the Key, an engraved stone that unlocks the power of Vargran.But can they locate the invisible castle of William “Blisterthong” MacGuffin, who guards the Key? (Yeah, we said Blisterthong. Yeah, it’s as painful as it sounds.)Mack has less than 30 days to master Vargran, round up the rest of the magnifica, and defeat Princess Risky. Will The Key be enough? Or is there something else Mack must find in order to save the world?


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For Katherine, Jake, and Julia

rincess Ereskigal, whose friends (she had no friends) all called her Risky, was having a very difficult conversation with her mother, the Pale Queen.

“Are they destroyed?” the Pale Queen nagged. “Are the new Magnificent Twelve all dead?”

The Pale Queen could appear in just about any form she chose, but for the purposes of this particular conversation she was wearing one of her favorite forms: as tall as a moderate redwood tree, with a gigantic head—a quite beautiful head in some ways, but with skin so translucent that in the right light you could see the bones of her skull and her jaw and the individual teeth in her head, thirty-six of them in all, each long and sharp and curved back to facilitate the swallowing of large, whole, usually living things.

Her hair was white. Actually it was colorless if you looked at an individual strand, but taken all together it was white (like a polar bear’s). It went down to her bony shoulders, from which hung a floor-length robe made out of screams.

Not the sort of outfit you find for sale at your local mall. But the Pale Queen wove reality out of fear and loss and despair.>1

The dress had a cutaway so that you could see her powerful calves filling boots as tall as city light posts. The boots were dragon skin and used human skulls to make a row of buckles. The toes of the boots were about as big as canoes—sharp, barbed-steel canoes.

Frankly, Risky thought, the outfit was a bit “young” for her mother. But she wasn’t going to say anything about it unless her mother really annoyed her. She was holding that in reserve.

“Mother, I said I would do it, didn’t I?” Risky huffed.

“So, the new Magnificent Twelve have been destroyed?”

“Are you saying you don’t trust me?” Risky crossed her arms over her chest and actually stamped her foot.

Like the Pale Queen, Risky could take any form. But generally she preferred to appear as an extraordinarily attractive teenage girl with luscious red hair and eyes so green there was no way they could possibly be entirely human.

Her dress was a simple, formfitting thing with a neckline that was daring without being “too much.” And she most often went barefoot.

“I trust … NO ONE!” the Pale Queen raged. And when she raged, her minions—Skirrit, Tong Elves, Gudridan, Lepercons, and so on—were blown back like action figures in the blast of a leaf blower.

Risky wasn’t blown anywhere.

She feared her mother, as any sensible daughter would. There wasn’t a lot of motherly love in this family, and the Pale Queen could absolutely decide to gobble her daughter up like a shrimp. Which was exactly what she had done to Risky’s father.

Like a shrimp.

But at the same time, the Pale Queen needed Risky. For another few days the Pale Queen was bound by a powerful spell and could not escape the World Beneath and go romping around up top where all the tasty humans lived.

Risky, however, could.

Which meant Risky could take on jobs like eliminating the terrible threat posed by the Magnificent Twelve. A task she had so far failed to accomplish despite several attempts.

“I don’t think you’re taking this seriously,” the Pale Queen said more quietly, her tone larded with guilt-inducing disappointment.

“I am so,” Risky countered.

“No, you’re not.”




“I just don’t want you being distracted. Remember the last time?”

That was unfair.

That was a cheap shot.

A low blow.

Because yes, Risky did remember the last time she’d made a promise to her mother, a thousand years ago …

… And as you can see by the ellipses, the three little dots there, we’re going to tell that story. Later. But first, on to chapter 1.

t turned out the Punjab was in India. Did you know that? No, you didn’t; don’t pretend. But don’t feel bad, either, because David “Mack” MacAvoy also had no idea where the Punjab was until very recently. He’s learned a lot about the Punjab lately.

For instance, he learned that the Punjab>2 is a warm, sunny place, at least at this particular time of year. Mack noticed how sunny and warm it was because he was on the ground staring right up at that warm sunny sun.

He was on the ground because creatures called Brembles were keeping him there.

Do you know what a Bremble is? Probably not, because Brembles no longer exist. (The last Bremble died in 1797, and he was quite old by then.) Brembles were a hybrid species, not something that occurred naturally, but a species created by evil forces. Imagine a large gorilla. No, twice that big. Now imagine that instead of being a peaceable plant eater, that oversized gorilla was extremely unpleasant. Now imagine that instead of fur, that extremely unpleasant oversized gorilla was covered in something very like porcupine quills. So, already: not good.

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