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The Duke of Big

Chapter 1

Three months had passed since the harrowing episode with the greedy Duke of Gloom. Fenwick Glumber had settled back down to his familiar daily routine. He was quite relieved when Shandra resumed her apprenticeship under the esteemed sorcerer-scientist Egollia, who would surely keep her out of trouble with studies and training.

Warming his feet by the crackling fire one pleasant autumn afternoon, Fenwick had a sudden uncomfortable premonition when a knock sounded at his door. Reluctantly leaving the fire's light and heat, he stood, marched down the hall, and opened the door.

"Not you again," Fenwick said testily.

A dark robed figure stood in the doorway. In spite of the bright afternoon sun, the light did nothing to illuminate the man's face, hidden beneath a loose hood. From the depths of ebony where his face should have been, a voice spoke: "An urgent matter requires your immediate personal attention," it said, and a bony hand stuffed a crumpled piece of paper into Fenwick's hand. With that, the figure was gone.

Fenwick sighed wearily. What now? He closed the door, opened the note, and read it to himself:

The first three letters are a way to rest;
The next, one uses the most.
Four more make a defect or blemish;
To the next two flee like a ghost!
Let no one see you or hear you come;
Secretly make your way.
Beware the beckon of the last four letters
That tempt you to delay.

"Well," muttered Fenwick. "Here we go again."