*This version is specially formatted for readers with learning differences*
In a magical realm filled with creatures of every possible shape and size, war is brought upon the peaceful kingdom of Sonnencrest by evil goblin King Malmut. Princess Babette, the only surviving member of the royal family, manages to escape and seeks refuge with Asterux, a powerful wizard who agrees to teach Babette magic, and who disguises her as an ugly gypsy girl to protect her from King Malmut’s thugs.
Ten years later, Babette must use the magic she has learned to help aid the kingdom’s only hope at defeating the goblins’ horrible reign: Darrow, a lame boy who can barely pick up a sword but has a great gift for inspiring others. With Babette’s unseen help, Darrow begins a journey to free his country once and for all and bring peace back to Sonnencrest.
Written by a father and his then eight- year-old son who struggled with a learning disability at the time, The Sword of Darrow is an enjoyable adventure that shows how even the unlikeliest of heroes can rise up against injustice.
*Specially formatted for readers with learning differences*
In addition to the paperback version of the book, there is a hardcover edition that is formatted for easier reader for those with learning differences.
About the Author
Alex is 16 and a student at the prestigious St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C. where he is an honor roll student and a starter on the school’s nationally recognized football team.
At the time he and his father started the book, Alex was eight and struggled with dyslexia. So when he began work on the book, he still could not read. He later enrolled in the Lab School in Washington D.C., which teaches children with learning differences. After 12 months of intensive work there, he was reading at his grade level.
Hal is a nationally recognized political consultant who has worked for candidates at the presidential level all the way down to local offices. His work has won numerous creative awards and he helped pioneer the use of statistical modeling and data mining techniques in the political arena. After becoming discouraged by the negative character of political campaigns, he closed his firm in 2010. He continues to do some consulting and is looking forward to a writing career.
Read an Excerpt
Evil. Within this simple word lies a vast collection of deeds.
Many evils are the work of people driven to madness by love or strong beliefs. And for these, there can be pity.
But what of evil inspired by greed alone? What of those who would steal, use violence, or even kill for nothing more than earthly treasure?
If such a person holds a low place in your heart, then consider a man — if you could call him that — who would launch a war, sending thousands to their graves with many more dire consequences to follow, all for a few small boxes of precious stone.
And if the very thought of such a person makes you recoil in revulsion, unable even to consider what good deeds might yet follow, then close this book and return it to its shelf.
For it is with just such an evil that our story begins.
* * *
In the village of Fildencroft, in the great goblin kingdom of Globenwald, a thin, bony man stood pressed against a cold stone wall. His black hair was greasy and lay flat against his pale skin. On his chin sprouted a pointed beard that was crooked and thin, with white gaps revealing the skin beneath. His gleaming black eyes signaled a dastardly mind.
His name was Telsinore and he was the captain of a band of brigands that were known as the Tarantula Pirates. The Tarantula Pirates sailed the Trap Door, a small vessel with large sails that transported the band of thieves and murderers with terrifying speed.
He rubbed a bony finger beneath his nose and peered through the window of a house. What he saw made him tremble with delight. Inside, asleep, lay a very large goblin, who was Telsinore's target. A dangerous target to be sure, for goblins were by their nature a violent and vengeful breed who sent ordinary humans scrambling for cover, and pirates fleeing for the safety of the waves.
Twice, Telsinore had tried to kill his victim and twice he had failed. Tonight, success lay mere footsteps away. Tonight, he would kill the great goblin Rildon, the tax collector and best friend of the goblin king, Malmut II. Telsinore would cleverly lay the blame on Sonnencrest, a tiny kingdom across the river from the goblin kingdom. The death of Rildon would surely be avenged. The massive goblin army would immediately march against their weaker and peaceful foe.
And when the goblin soldiers invaded Sonnencrest, a great treasure would lay unguarded. The emerald mine. The richest in the world. And the emeralds he would steal would buy Telsinore a great prize. They would buy the death of his rival, the great pirate Three Fingers Frick.
* * *
Telsinore hatched his plan, he had expected to make quick work of the tax collector, and for good reason. Rildon was fat — so fat that walking was entirely out of the question. Instead, he waddled, slowly and ponderously, at a pace that would embarrass a snail. Why was he fat? Because he ate many times a day, consuming staggering quantities of food. All day, the royal cooks would slave over their pots, concocting all kinds of stews and puddings and casseroles. Hour after hour, Rildon would eat. And hour after hour, Rildon would cry out for more.
Next to eating, Rildon had one other pastime: sleeping. Morning naps. Afternoon naps. Long evening slumbers. When he slept, it was well known to all, for he announced his sleeping with a thunderous snore that rattled nearby buildings and drove birds from the trees.
Telsinore's original plan was simple. Under the cover of darkness, he scaled the wall and sneaked into Rildon's bedroom. Lifting the bedcovers, he placed two things on the sheets. One was a note, placing the blame for Rildon's death on the small, peace-loving kingdom of Sonnencrest.
The other was Trixie, Telsinore's poisonous spider.
But when Rildon arrived in his bedroom, it was not the tax collector who perished. For as Rildon collapsed into bed, his great weight crashing into the mattress, Trixie was crushed, and her insides splattered across the note, making it impossible to read. All that remained was a great black spot that Rildon didn't notice.
But there was no time for Telsinore to mourn his beloved pet. He had a job to do. To accomplish his mission, he next chose a simpler method: a bow and arrow.
For Telsinore, the bow was an odd choice. He was a pirate, a man of the sword. Archers were sissies. His skills might be unpracticed, but how could he miss? Rildon was huge! So, in a tree overlooking the compound wall, Telsinore waited. When he saw his target, he pulled far back on the string and sighted the arrow at Rildon's heart. Unfortunately, the arrow sailed well above Rildon, through a window, and into the heart of Sindbad, the king's beloved moondust bird.
Rildon suspected nothing. But the royal archery instructor was never seen again.
Was Telsinore discouraged? Not one bit.
Two days later, a hooded messenger appeared at the compound door. He delivered an invitation from the goblin town of Fildencroft. A great pig roast would be held in honor of Rildon, the royal tax collector and King Malmut's closest friend. Rildon made immediate plans to attend.
On the day of the banquet, the goblins mounted their horses for the journey. Rildon, too large for the carriage, was lifted into an open wagon for the trip.
But when they arrived in Fildencroft, there was no dinner to be had. The confused goblins knew nothing of the invitation. They became anxious, fearing to offend Rildon, who would surely demand new taxes from their village.
So they slaughtered four large pigs. While the pigs roasted, the villagers plied their visitors with wine. By the time the meal was ready, the guests were so drunk they could hardly hold their forks. By the time the meal was finished, travel was out of the question. They bedded down for the night, which was the key to Telsinore's plan.
Finding Rildon was no problem. In the town square, covered by a hooded cloak, Telsinore sat and listened. When he heard Rildon's great snore echoing through the streets, he followed the sound to the inn where Rildon had passed out.
Now here he was, pressed against the wall, ready for his third attempt on Rildon's life. The window was open. Telsinore crept inside.
Rildon's massive body trembled and shook with each thunderous snore. Reaching into his bag, Telsinore pulled out a poisoned arrow. The arrow was marked with a yellow sun, the symbol of the kingdom of Sonnencrest.
Taking no chances, he shoved the poisoned arrow directly into Rildon's heart. After a few muddled snorts, silence filled the room.
Telesinore's plan was complete. The emeralds would be his and his rival would lie at the bottom of the sea. He smiled at the brilliance of his plan.
"That was so easy," he chuckled, "it was almost a crime."
* * *
The next morning, the royal guests found Rildon, his unmoving eyes fixed on the ceiling, the arrow deep in his chest. Attached to the arrow was a note. It read:
Trespassing on the land of Sonnencrest will not be forgiven. Let this be a warning.CHAPTER 2
The fog wound through a thick carpet of fir and spruce that colored the landscape in shadows of black and green. From this landscape rose a mountain. It harbored no soil, no trees, and barely a blade of grass. From its foot to its peak was one long expanse of black rock, broken only by a door and a few small windows. Behind the door lay a castle, built directly into the stone of the mountain.
No walls, watchtowers, or large wooden gates guarded this fortress. A great door was simple and stood at the base of the mountain, but inside was a labyrinth of hallways and rooms, hundreds of them, carved deep into the mountain. At night, when lamps burned inside, the few tiny windows glowed eerily.
A road passed the castle, barely a stone's throw away. In the day, when no light shone outward, the castle seemed like no more than a stone, a silent work of nature unshaped by earthly hands. A traveler might walk past unaware that the heart of a great nation lay nearby. But on this day, from this great black rock, a voice boomed outward.
It was the voice of King Malmut II, ruler of the goblin nation of Globenwald.
"Smoke! I want to see the smoke from my window. I want Sonnencrest reduced to a landscape of ash!"
Arms flailing, King Malmut stormed back and forth, his eyes black with rage. Even among goblins, Malmut was especially ugly. His head was large and bulbous, with two tiny eyes set close together and a hooked nose that jutted out far from his face. He was oddly proportioned, with a torso barely as big as his head, and most of his height concentrated in his spindly legs, which gave him the appearance of a very large insect.
There was no hiding the stresses of the king, for when his nerves began to rattle, he began to sweat. These were no small droplets here and there that might go unnoticed. No, when King Malmut was anxious, great rivers of liquid poured forth. Today, the king was utterly soaked.
The king's advisor, Bekkendoth, spoke up in his calm voice.
"Perhaps, Your Majesty, this whole affair might be a trick. Why would such a small, peaceful kingdom provoke war with the goblins? Really, it makes no sense."
"Then who killed Rildon?" the king shot back. "Fairies? Bloodthirsty fairies?"
A smooth voice cut in, "Your Highness, perhaps we should discuss the plan."
Vinton Beltar, supreme commander of the forces of Globenwald, stood before a great map spread out on the king's table. Tall, with a broad, muscular frame, the commander looked at the king with patient eyes. To Beltar, the king's tirades were nothing new.
Beltar was a commoner, an orphan, who began his career as a foot soldier of the lowest rank. But his uncommon courage soon caught the eye of Globenwald's senior officers. Once in command, he proved a brilliant tactician and a ruthless one as well. He was a legend for his triumph at Cinidorm. Commanding the goblin force facing the army of Tolenbettle, an assemblage more than twice the size of his own, Beltar made a sudden retreat from the battlefield. His soldiers fled madly away into the woods. Hours later, under a flag of surrender, a goblin officer brought Beltar's sword to the enemy commander.
"Take it," the underling told him. "Beltar lies dead in his grave. The army is gone. The victory is yours."
The soldiers of Tolenbettle began a great celebration. Music played, wine flowed, and men danced merrily around their blazing fires. Deep in the evening, the merriment faded. The men sank into sleep, drunk and exhausted.
An hour before sunrise, a great rustling noise surrounded the camp, followed by a hideous battle cry. Out of the blackness stepped the entirety of the great goblin army of Globenwald, swords drawn and torches blazing. Before the soldiers of Tolenbettle could stagger to their feet, the goblin soldiers were upon them. Not a single soldier of Tolenbettle survived.
Now Beltar faced a new campaign against the kingdom of Sonnencrest. Perhaps Rildon's death was indeed a trick, but the general did not care. He would have a new campaign. Sonnencrest was a nation of weaklings. He cleared his throat and began to speak.
"Tomorrow, we march on Sonnencrest. We will need a day and a half to reach ..."
The door was flung open and in walked an aging goblin, tall, wrinkled, his long, black robe swishing around him.
"At last! At last! At last!" he bellowed.
This was Zindown. His robe was woven with silk that reflected the sunlight from the window. On one sleeve, stitched in green, was a spider with twelve legs and two tiny wings. On his face, the green skin sagged with the deep creases of immeasurable age.
No one can say just how long a wizard lives. It is a secret they keep to themselves. But it is easily counted in decades, some say even a century or more, beyond the lives of ordinary mortals. Zindown had lived a very long life. But beneath his withered face rose a voice, clear and vibrant, that on this morning lifted like a song.
The king gave Zindown an icy stare.
"Your happiness exceeds the occasion."
Zindown paused for a moment. "Why, Your Highness, I do indeed mourn the death of poor Rildon. He was a fine servant of our land. It is only the possibility of vengeance that brings excitement to my heart." This was not quite the truth.
For years, Zindown had conducted experiments far beyond ordinary magic. He had toyed with life itself. His goal was a whole new collection of creatures — terrible creatures that could be used in battle against enemies of the goblin land. These efforts were difficult and drew from him his last gasp of energy. Fortunately, most of the experiments failed.
Once, he had created a giant stilt crab with long legs that could walk across the land. Its shell would be impervious to attack. It could be ridden by archers, who could rain arrows onto enemy soldiers below them. And, of course, its giant claws could cut an opponent in two with a single snap.
But the stilt crab bore a temperament unsuitable for military life. Six trainers were snapped in half. Despite Zindown's pleading, the stilt crabs were put to the axe.
Another disappointment was the venomous ferret. In Zindown's mind, a small and speedy mammal like the ferret might be the perfect attack weapon. Armed with fangs and deadly poison, these creatures could be unleashed on an enemy late at night or hurled over the walls of a castle under siege!
Zindown's ferrets worked exactly as planned, but there was a flaw he never considered. When mating season arrived, the ferrets attacked one another viciously. Not a single male animal survived and the breed was soon lost.
Zindown was nothing, however, if not persistent. After many years, he had achieved two successes. They took years to reach adulthood, years to breed, and years to train. It was the work of a lifetime, and now that work would be rewarded. When the goblins marched on Sonnencrest, his creatures would be ready.
His creations. His magic. His triumph. Now, Zindown could watch his creations dismantle the army of Sonnencrest.
Beltar continued his report. "Our army will march down the Dalamath Highway. Before crossing the river into Sonnencrest, we will split into three parts to confuse the enemy."
"And what of the scorpion man?" asked Bekkendoth. "I hear he fights with the force of twenty men."
"Perhaps," sneered Beltar, "but the others are worth barely half a goblin."
Zindown broke into loud laughter. His creatures. Beltar's genius. This was going to be a beautiful war.CHAPTER 3
The Festival of Sir Fenn
While the goblins soldiers readied to march, the people of Sonnencrest had no idea what was in store for them. In fact, at that very moment, a great celebration was underway. Thousands had come to the capital city of Blumenbruch to line the streets and cheer the parade that was in honor of the Festival of Sir Fenn.
A costumed dwarf soared through the air and crossed in front of the dazzling sun, briefly blinding the crowd who watched his tricks. When he landed, both feet squarely on the head of a troll, the children cheered and laughed.
Leading the way were three gigantic trolls who served as platforms for a team of six acrobatic dwarfs. Tumbling through the air from one troll to another, the dwarves landed on heads, shoulders, and open palms. They were dressed in blue and golden silks, and spun through the air like juggling balls.
Behind the dwarves came a disordered assembly of boys, small and large, pulling kites shaped like monstrous birds with teeth and soaring wings. Each kite depicted one of the celebrated creatures of the Miskerdrones, the mole people whose wizard king rose from the earth to transform ordinary songbirds into monsters, and visit his vengeance upon the surface-dwellers.
Next came the scorpion man and a hideous creature he was. He was tall with thick shoulders and arms. Atop those shoulders was a round head covered with a dark shell that was backdrop to two unmoving red eyes. His body was covered with black scales; from his back emerged a tail ending in two sharp points. It wasn't actually the scorpion man, for the great soldier himself was far too shy to walk in a parade. Still, the costumed figure reminded the crowd of the real scorpion man, who was out there somewhere and who would protect them if war ever came.
At the end of the avenue stood a great platform, adorned in blue and yellow banners of silk. There the royal family sat. Today was a special day because their six-year-old son, Prince Fenn, would read the tribute to Sir Fenn, his namesake and founder of the kingdom.
The queen rose on her tiptoes, eyes searching the parade route. Far in the distance was Prince Fenn, dressed as a knight, with a silver breastplate and leg guards. He might have been dashing, but the armor was obviously too heavy for the young prince. Under its weight, poor Prince Fenn stumbled slowly.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Sword of Darrow"
Copyright © 2011 Alex and Hal Malchow.
Excerpted by permission of BenBella Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.