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The Monsters of Otherness

Book #2 of Erec Rex
Illustrated by Melvyn Grant

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About The Book

Trouble is brewing in quiet, pleasant Alypium, and only Erec Rex can make it better. All of the baby dragons have mysteriously disappeared, and King Piter has lost the trust of his people. Worse, the evil Stain brothers will become the new rulers of the Kingdom of the Keepers unless Erec returns to Alypium and challenges them. but if Erec becomes king, the power of the royal scepter could destroy him completely.

As Erec performs deadly quests in pursuit of the throne, he discovers that the right path brings many risks and few rewards -- and when he must delve into the Substance that holds our world together, he must summon all of his strength just to survive.

Excerpt

Erec Rex: The Monsters of Otherness

CHAPTER ONE Seeing Green

DEAR EREC,

You haven’t met me, but I have seen your picture in the huge celebrations here in your honor. We are all so grateful that you rescued King Piter and stopped the evil Shadow Prince from getting the scepter! I just want to say, I think you’re great. I’ll probably never get to meet you except in my dreams. Just know that somewhere there is a girl who is always thinking about you.

If you want to write back, put your letter in this envelope and toss it onto the grass. Otherwise, please throw the empty envelope on the ground to recycle it.

XXXXOOOO,
An Admirer

Erec reread the pink frilly letter for the tenth time. It had appeared yesterday in the grass in a shiny hard shell when he was throwing a ball outside with his brother Trevor. One moment he was rolling in the dirt, and the next it was just there, gleaming white in the sun, the words “Erec Rex” printed neatly on the side. He picked it up, curious. Trails of slime oozed from the shell, but the pink letter poking out was dry. He almost had it memorized, especially the part about the girl thinking about him, and of course all those Xs and Os.

The sun blazed through twelve-year-old Erec’s window, bouncing off the straight dark hair sprouting from the front of his head and getting lost in the tangled curls in back. He stretched in his bed and rubbed his bright blue eyes.

Erec Ulysses Rex was a normal boy, with a few minor exceptions. He had an unusual gift, which he once thought was a curse: his cloudy thoughts. These ideas would overtake him and force him to do whatever they commanded. He used to fight them, but since they had saved his life, he was glad to have them. Also, one of his eyes was attached in the back to a hidden dragon’s eye, a gift from the dragon Aoquesth.

But what he found out recently—that his mother knew magic, that he had been born in Alypium, and that he was destined to be king there—took away any feeling of normalcy he’d ever had. Alypium was one of the three Kingdoms of the Keepers, where magic was still known, along with the underground Aorth, and Ashona, which was under the seas. Not that Erec planned to actually perform the twelve dangerous quests to become king. In fact, there was a big problem he could not ignore. He now knew that becoming king would destroy him completely.

Erec rolled over and read the letter again. For the first time in a long time, his alarm clock had not woken him early. What a relief. Maybe the thing finally realized it was summer…now that summer was at an end. The clock usually woke him by throwing things at him. It was one of the strange, lifelike objects that Erec had grown up with, like his juggling coat rack. His mother had gotten them from the Kingdoms of the Keepers.

He glanced at the clock and then sat up, not believing his eyes. It stood in a small pool of water, beeping softly. His mother’s magical Seeing Eyeglasses were perched on its round face. Small tearlike droplets dripped down its numbers as it peered through the glasses. The clock was like an annoying pet, always waking him up too early, but now it looked pathetic. When he picked the glasses up, the clock came with them, blinking sadly. Erec pulled, but the glasses stuck firmly to its face.

“Oh, no.” Erec smacked his forehead. He had left the glasses out last night, thinking about using them to check on his best friend, Bethany. He had not done it, and now he regretted taking them out at all. They were impossible to take off anybody, maybe even an alarm clock.

He flopped onto his back and gazed at a crack in the ceiling. As he stared, it began to look quite like a minotaur with whom he had once had an unfortunate experience. He closed his eyes and sighed. Part of him wanted to go back to Alypium, where strange things like minotaurs existed and where Bethany was, rather than staying safe and comfortable in New Jersey. Sure, he had never been crushed in a pit under an avalanche of rock at home, nor nearly been killed by a multieyed fiend, or suffered attack fleas, but he also had more fun in Alypium than anywhere else.

But the problem was the scepter. It still haunted him day and night. His dreams were ravaged with thoughts of holding its slick gold, streams of its power flowing through his body. It kept calling for him. From the first moment he had held it, he’d wanted the scepter badly, would do anything to get it. But since he had come home to Upper Earth, his craving for it had grown, and he realized what it had done to him. His mind wandered to it all the time, and not with thoughts of helping people with it or learning about its magic. No. Erec wanted it in his bones. He wanted its power. He wanted to join it…lose himself in it…use it to complete his will.

His desire for it completely overwhelmed him.

He had used it to too much, too soon, without any training…and he knew that if he ever held it again, he would be out of control, lost in its power.

So becoming a king and wielding a scepter was out of the question.

 

Erec rose from the small cot in the corner of the tiny room he shared with his two brothers. He used to hate being cramped for space, but now he did not care. After everything he had gone through, all that mattered was that his family was alive and safe. He stepped over his sleeping dogs, Tutt and King, and his brother Trevor snoozing in a sleeping bag.

Danny and Sammy, his thirteen-year-old twin brother and sister, stood across the room staring at him and whispering. They looked alike, tall and thin with soft blue eyes. Danny’s sandy brown hair stood on end, and Sammy’s was smoothed into a ponytail. Ever since he returned from Alypium four weeks ago, they had been acting strangely—following him around, eyes glued on him like they’d never seen him before. It was almost like they were spying on him. His adoptive mother, June, had said they just wanted to keep an eye out for him since he had been missing for so long. But they certainly did not seem like their old selves. Danny had not cracked a single joke, and Sammy was not acting motherly at all. In fact, they seemed serious all the time.

“Excuse me, guys.” Erec squeezed between the twins’ shoulders into the bathroom. His toothbrush, another lifelike object his mother had bought from the Vulcan store in the Kingdoms of the Keepers, sprang into action. It grabbed an open tube of toothpaste with its arms and legs, rested its bristle head over the opening, and squeezed until a big glob of white popped onto its face. Like a monkey, it swung hand over foot up to Erec’s face where, grabbing his mouth, it shook its head dizzyingly across Erec’s teeth.

Erec gripped the counter for as long as he could stand it before he ripped the thing out of his mouth. He looked into the mirror and gasped. Two faces were right behind him, staring.

Then he sighed. It was just Danny and Sammy. “You guys scared me. Are you under orders to follow me or something?”

The old Danny would have hit him on the head and told him to shut up, but then again, the old Danny would not have been staring at him to begin with. He shook his head in warning and the twins backed off.

Erec was leaving the bathroom when suddenly a blinding green light flashed through him. In the next second he could see again, but everything looked greenish. White cobwebs hung all around him. Erec watched himself moving, walking—although he was sure he was standing still. He gripped the door frame next to him.

The image before his eyes was so clear, Erec was not sure if it was real. It looked like he was outside, somewhere, running through cobwebs…running at his brother Danny.

 

Danny had a horrified look in his eye as he watched Erec coming for him. Erec sprang at Danny, tackling him, grabbing his neck. No, he thought to himself, what am I doing? But he couldn’t stop himself. His own hands were holding his brother down, shaking him hard.

A woman walked by in the eerie green light. She looked down at the two of them in shock. Erec watched his hand reach up, and grab at her belt and…yank it from her waist. His heart started pounding. What was he doing? How could he? The woman looked shocked, clutched her skirt to hold it up…

 

And then the image faded.

Erec stood in the doorway of the bathroom, pale and shaking. What had happened? It was like a dream, but he was awake and it felt so real. What was wrong with him? He didn’t want to hurt his brother. He looked at Danny across the room and bit his lip in shame.

June, his adoptive mother, had come down the hallway. “Are you okay?” Erec shrugged, not sure if he was all right or not.

“Your eye turned around and the dragon-eye side was showing,” she said in awe. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It glowed like a green light, with a long black slit in the middle. Then it turned back so fast I couldn’t believe it.” Concerned, she brushed hair from his face. “Did you see something through it?”

Erec rubbed his shoulders, feeling unsettled. “You don’t want to know.”

“What do you mean?”

“Never mind.” Erec did not want to admit he’d had such a horrible thought. He walked back to his cot. What was that all about? This was the first time he had seen through the dragon’s eye since he got it…and he didn’t like what he saw. What made it happen now? And why did the vision have to be so terrible?

He had been glad to have the dragon eye. It was so much better than the glass one he’d had before. Now he could see through both eyes. But what if the dragon eye wasn’t so great? What if it was evil? A chill crept through him. What if the dragon eye was going to make him do things like his cloudy thoughts did—only bad things? Was it going to make him really hurt Danny? No. He wouldn’t let it.

Erec rubbed his new eye, wishing he could have his glass one back. The last thing he needed was something to make him more out of control. And what if he wanted to get rid of the dragon eye someday? Was he stuck with it?

June went into the kitchen and came back with a letter. “This came yesterday. I forgot to give it to you.”

He opened it.

Dear Erec,

I hate to ask you this because I know how you feel about becoming king, and the scepter and all, but it’s really urgent. Baskania and President Inkle are going to count your absence from Alypium as a forfeit. If you don’t get here within the week to do the first quest, they will hand the throne to Balor, Damon, and Rock, since they “officially” won the contests.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, Erec. I know you’re afraid of what might happen if you use the scepter again. And sure, being a king sounds a little crazy. But if you really were the king, you wouldn’t have to use the scepter, would you? I mean, nobody could make you. Just think about it. I can’t imagine what would happen if Balor, Damon, and Rock become rulers and get the scepters. You know what they would do to everybody here? Would you consider it, please? Anyway, I wouldn’t mind seeing you again.

Your friend,
Bethany

That settled it. Handing Alypium to the Stain brothers was not an option. They would turn the place into a wasteland, their dragon horses breathing fire on everyone, using the scepters for destruction. Like it or not, Erec was going.

About The Author

Photo credit: Essenza Studio, Milford, OH

Kaza Kingsley is a writer, artist, and singer who loves travel and adventure, especially in dangerous and mystical realms. Kaza is also a movie buff and reads constantly when she’s not writing books. When she is not off exploring, she can be found in Cincinnati with her loving family...although she may be dreaming of the stars.

About The Illustrator

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (April 7, 2009)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416979340
  • Grades: 5 - 9
  • Ages: 10 - 14
  • Lexile ® 630 The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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