About the Author

Thomas Wharton

Thomas Wharton was born in Grande Prairie, Alberta, an agriculture and oil city located near the BC border. His father, a utilities manager, was transferred to Jasper when Wharton was a teen. The years Wharton spent exploring the mountains and glaciers around Jasper have had a lasting impact on his literary output; references to the Rocky Mountains weave in and out of the books he has written, most notably Icefields (NeWest Press, 1995) and The Logogryph. A life-long love of maps, history, art, and poetry equally informs his work. His latest adult novel is Every Blade of Grass. He is also the author of a fantasy trilogy, The Perilous Realm for younger readers. The Shadow of Malabron, The Fathomless Fire, and The Tree Story are available from Doubleda Canada.

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The Fathomless Fire

HE WAS LEAVING TONIGHT. He couldn’t wait any longer. Will stuffed the bottle of water into his pack with the apple and the energy bars. He looked around his tiny, lowceilinged bedroom, wondering if there was anything else he should bring. It all depended, he thought, on how long he would be gone. And that was something he didn’t know.
From the floor below came a clatter of pots and pans. Dad was making dinner, and apparently destroying the kitchen in the process. The noise was surprisingly loud, as if Dad was in the same room with him. Will wasn’t used to the way sound carried in this new house, but then he wasn’t used to a lot about it yet. His family had moved in only a few weeks ago, after travelling across the country from the town that Will had lived in all his life. He hadn’t wanted to move in the first place, and when they’d first pulled up in front of this ramshackle little two-storey house, with its peeling paint and unmown lawn, his heart had sunk. But now, despite the unfamiliar smells and the cramped quarters, made worse by all their still-unpacked boxes, he had to admit there was something he liked about the place. It was at the edge of town, on a quiet, tree-shaded road lined with other houses of the same age and state of repair. There wasn’t much traffic. It was a place where you could come and go without many people around to notice.
Looking out of his window now he could see trees and a few scattered rooftops. The house, he thought, stood between two worlds, the city and the country. And that was it. The house was like him. Between worlds.
“What are you doing?”
Will jumped and turned to the door. His little sister Jess stood there, a doll tucked under one arm and a wide-eyed look of curiosity on her face.
“Nothing,” Will said quickly.
“Are you going somewhere?”
She was eyeing the pack he was still holding in his hand. Since they’d moved in Jess had been coming into his room without warning, as if the house was so new to her she was still figuring out the living arrangements. He shouldn’t have left his door open.
“For a hike, maybe,” Will said, tossing the pack onto his bed with what he hoped looked like a casual gesture. “Tomorrow, if it’s a nice day.”
He expected her to ask if she could come along. She was always tagging along behind him whenever he went anywhere. But to his surprise she only watched him silently, with an odd expression he couldn’t interpret.
“Dad wants you downstairs,” she said as she turned suddenly and walked away, leaving Will with the uneasy feeling that his plans were not as secret as he had thought. But how could Jess know anything about them? She and Dad had no idea what had happened to him during the trip to their new home. They didn’t know he’d gone on a journey of his own, to a place far stranger than this unfamiliar house.
And now he was going back. He had no choice. Not after what had happened last night.
Last night, Will talked to a shadow . . .
It was a warm summer evening and he couldn’t sleep. The house made strange noises at night, soft little creaks and odd knockings. He lay awake in his bed for a long time, listening to these sounds and trying to guess what was making them. After a while he gave up on sleep, climbed out of bed and started unpacking some of the boxes in his room labelled Will’s stuff.
To his surprise he realized that one of the boxes wasn’t from the move. On the lid was his name, written in his mother’s neat, graceful hand. This was a box of his things that she had packed away long ago.
He opened the box and began to unpack it, and each thing he lifted out brought memories with it. His old stuffed animals. Plastic figures of superheroes and monsters. Crayon drawings of his from years ago. And at the bottom, books. He lifted the books out one at a time and turned the pages, remembering. There were his favourite storybooks when he was very young. The Wolf and the Three Little Pigs. Jack and the Beanstalk. Little Red Riding Hood. The bindings were loose and the pages tattered and torn. Some pages had his childish crayon scrawls on them. He hadn’t treated books very well back then.
His mother had read him these stories at bedtime. He had asked for them over and over. And when they both got tired of the storybooks, she told him stories that she made up herself. Most of her own stories were about a boy who could run faster than a hare and leap higher than a deer, so the people called him Light-of-foot, or Lightfoot for short . . .
Will’s mother had died three years ago, not long after Will’s eleventh birthday, but he could still hear her voice, as clearly as if she was here beside him, telling him about Lightfoot’s adventures. At first Will believed the stories were true, and he was thrilled to have the same name as this boy hero of long ago, who was always outwitting monsters and menaces of every kind. He was not only fast on his feet, he was clever, too, and it was quick thinking that got him out of more than one tight spot, like the time he stood up to Captain Stormcloud and his Lightning Warriors . . .

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The Logogryph

The Logogryph

A Bibliography of Imaginary Books
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The Shadow of Malabron

The Shadow of Malabron

Welcome to the Perilous Realm
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It is when you have already gone too far that your journey truly begins.
—The Quips and Quiddities of Sir Dagonet
Will had taken the motorcycle. He couldn’t believe he had done it, but here he was, zooming down the highway with the wind buffeting him in the face and the bike humming powerfully beneath him. He scanned the road ahead for any sign of the brightly coloured tents he had seen earlier. The late afternoon sky was darkening with thick clouds. It looked like rain.
Will hunkered down over the handlebars. He was in a lot of trouble, but there was no turning back now.
He hadn’t expected the day to turn out like this. The Lightfoot family had been on the road since early morning. It was the third day of their cross- country trip to a new home. On the first day Will had played Goblin Fortress on his GameBook until he was sick of it. On the second day he’d played “I Spy” and other kiddie car games with his little sister Jess, and wondered if he’d ever been so bored in his entire life. On the third afternoon they passed the hundredth field with cows in it and he knew for certain he had never been so bored in his entire life. He was staring out of the window of the camper van at nothing in particular, dazed with boredom and half asleep, when he glimpsed something up ahead that woke him right up.
On the left side of the highway, behind a stand of trees, rose the colourful pennants and pavilions of what looked to be some sort of fair or amusement park.
He nudged Jess. She looked up and her eyes widened.
“Dad, look at that,” Will shouted.
“Look at what,” Dad said without a glimmer of interest. After three days behind the wheel he had become a robot, Will thought. A cranky, unshaven robot. And there was another day of driving still to go.
They were getting closer to the amusement park. Will could see tents, flags, the towers of what looked like a real castle. And the snowy top of a huge pavilion painted to look like a mountain. He thought he could hear music, the happy shrieks of kids having fun, and even smell the mouth- watering scents of popcorn and candy floss.
Then he saw the sign. A long banner strung between two spindly trees, inviting him in thin spidery letters to visit
The Perilous Realm
Enter if you dare.
Explore the
Haunted Forest
The Scary- Go- Round
The Dragon’s Lair
And much much more!
Something is Always Happening Here
The turn- off was coming up fast. Will could see a narrow dirt road snaking into the trees. The sun was going down and lanterns had already been lit among the branches as if to show the way.
“We have to stop here,” he said. “This place looks amazing.”
“It’s just some flea-bitten old tourist trap,” Dad snorted.
The van wasn’t slowing down.
“You don’t know that,” Will shot back. “Let’s just have a look.”
“Let’s just find a campsite,” Dad grumbled. “Maybe we can come back later.”
They flew past the turn- off. The tents and flags quickly dwindled to bright specks in the distance, then vanished as they rounded the next bend in the road. Will kept talking about what he had seen, in the swiftly- fading hope that he could wear Dad down. He tried to get Jess worked up, too, thinking that her voice added to his would tip the scales, but once the amusement park was out of sight, she quickly lost interest. Will wasn’t really surprised. Since Mom had died, Jess had become very quiet. She rarely smiled, and never laughed. She followed Will around all the time, and whenever he and Dad had one of their arguments, she would hold Will’s hand without saying a word. Sometimes he would forget she was there at all.
They drove on and on and then Dad suddenly pulled off into a big campground for recreational vehicles. There weren’t many other campers in the place, and they soon found a site to park. Dad shut off the rattling engine of their old rust-bucket of a camper van and stretched.
“So let’s go,” Will said eagerly.
“Go where?” Dad asked, clearly having forgotten.
“The Perilous Realm.”
Dad laughed.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” he said. “I’ve had a long day’s drive and now I’ve got to make dinner. The place is probably closed for the day anyhow. I bet they’ve already pulled up stakes and moved on. With money from a lot of suckers.”
“It’s not late,” Will snapped. “There’s still lots of time if we go now.”
Dad gave him a black look, and then his eyes softened. He glanced at Jess, who was standing nearby, wide- eyed and silent as usual. Then he turned to Will again.
“Will, I really need you to—” he began, then he lowered his head and sighed. “Just give it a rest, okay?” he finished, and climbed into the back of the camper to start unloading the gear.
Jess tugged Will’s sleeve. He knew what that meant, so he walked with her to the main washrooms up the winding campground road. As usual she tried to take his hand, but he shook her off.
There were spiderwebs in the windows of the building, and a garbage can overflowing with discarded food and drink containers near the door. While he waited for Jess outside, Will pictured the tents, the bright flags, the beckoning lights. Something is Always Happening Here, the sign had promised.
Will looked around. Smoke from campfires wafted through the air. From nearby came the sound of country music playing on a tinny radio. Farther away a dog was barking its stupid head off.
“Nothing is always happening here,” Will muttered.
A big truck roared by him in the other lane and brought Will’s attention back to what he was doing. He could feel the bike wobbling under him as he was buffeted by the truck’s wake. For an instant he and the driver had exchanged glances. A kid on a bike in this weather? the driver’s look had said. Will knew he should slow down, but he had to get off the highway and into the fairground before the rain got worse. He needed to finish this.
The road ahead looked just the same as the road behind. He had been driving long enough, he thought, to have returned by now to the spot where he’d seen the amusement park. There was no way they could have already packed up the tents and moved on. But there was no sign of the lanterns among the trees.
“I won’t go back,” he shouted above the roar of the bike and the wind.
He had been angry ever since the day Mom told them she was going into the hospital. He had guessed from the way she and Dad talked that she might not get well again, but even so, he never really thought the worst would happen. And so fast. One day she was there, the next she was gone.
He couldn’t believe it was almost three years ago. Jess could hardly remember her. Will thought of her every day. And then a month ago Dad had announced at dinner that he’d found a new job, as a welder on a big construction project out west, and that they would be moving in three weeks. Leaving the house where Will and Jess had grown up. The house that Will had come home to every afternoon for the last three years with the hope that he might open the door and find Mom there, baking something in the kitchen or sitting in a wicker chair on the back porch reading a book. She would dry her hands on her apron, or put down the book, and call him to come in and tell her what had happened at school that day.
It was a good job and a great opportunity, Dad had said. For all of them. But Will didn’t see it. It was like his Dad was trying to forget. Trying to make them all forget. He’d told himself he wasn’t going to let that happen. And so he’d tried to act like they weren’t really moving. He’d shut himself in his room or stayed out late with his friends, and refused to pack up his things. In the end, though, he’d had no choice. He couldn’t win.
When Will and Jess got back to the campsite from the washrooms, Dad had taken his beloved antique motorcycle down from the rack on the rear of the van. He’d had to bring the bike along with them, even though almost everything else they owned was coming later in a moving truck.
“The old girl’s gotten pretty dusty,” he said to Will, and held out a plastic bucket. “Why don’t you clean her up while I make dinner, and later I’ll let you take her for a spin around the campground.”
Will took the bucket, held it at arm’s length for a moment, then let it drop. It hit the ground with a hollow thunk and rolled to Jess’s feet. She bent and picked it up. Dad looked at Will for a long moment without speaking. Then he rubbed his forehead and turned away.
“Grow up, Will,” he said over his shoulder.
He climbed back into the camper van and soon could be heard banging around in the cupboards. Will turned and saw Jess, still standing there holding the bucket.
“What are you looking at?” Will snapped. She stared wide-eyed at him without speaking.
As Will turned away angrily, he caught sight of Dad’s keys on the picnic table next to his jacket. He picked them up and opened the locket that Dad kept on the key ring. In the photograph inside Mom was smiling, holding a sunhat on her head to keep the wind from blowing it away. Will remembered that the picture had been taken at the beach, the summer before she died. He remembered how he and Dad had come back to the cottage from their canoe trip across the lake, joking about something or other, and Dad had snapped the picture just after Mom said what are you two pals laughing about? She was already sick then but she hadn’t told Will or Jess. She’d wanted them all to have one last happy time together.
He snapped the locket shut and slid the motorcycle key off the ring.
“I’m going,” he said quietly.
“Where?” Jess asked.
“Nowhere. Don’t worry about it.”
“Don’t go, Will,” she said.
He ignored her and went over to the motorcycle. Taking hold of the handlebars he lifted the kickstand, then began to push the bike out of the campsite. When he was on the road he looked back at Jess. She was watching him, the bucket still in her hand. She lifted her other hand and waved.
Will frowned and gave her a quick wave back. Then he turned, broke into a trot, and hopped onto the bike. He’d only ever been allowed to ride it up and down the street in front of their house, under Dad’s supervision, but he had learned enough to start the engine and ride on his own.
A moment later he was roaring away from the camp. He heard his father shouting his name, but he didn’t look back.
As Will rounded a long curve he saw another vehicle approaching in the opposite lane, and with a jolt he realized it was a police car. At that moment it occurred to him that he wasn’t wearing a helmet and that he had no license. He tried to think of a story that might get him out of this mess, but his frantic thoughts wouldn’t latch onto anything. All he could do was keep riding as if nothing was wrong, and a few moments later the police car shot past him. He started to relax a little, thinking he’d been lucky, and then glanced in the rearview mirror.
The police car was slowing down to make a turn and its red and blue lights were flashing.
At the back of his mind a voice told him his little adventure was over. He should pull over, stop, and face what was coming to him. But he kept on riding, as if his hands were frozen to the handlebars.
Then, out of the rain, there were lights by the side of the road. And there was the huge banner, shining eerily in thetwilight. Will squinted into the rain and saw it just ahead, the narrow dirt track leading off from the highway down an embankment.
There was no time to think. He leaned into the turn and dived down the track, his one thought that maybe he could reach the parking lot, ditch the bike and hide among all the other people who were sure to be at the fairground. As he passed under the banner he saw that it was badly tattered, the inscription on it faded and almost unreadable. It hadn’t looked like that when he first saw it. He ignored that and peered into the gloom, hoping to see lights ahead, but the dirt track had plunged into dark woods and only grew bumpier and narrower, so that he had to slow right down to avoid crashing into the trees. There were no lanterns. The trees and tall undergrowth on either hand leaned in like the walls of a dimly lit cave.
Will tried to remember where the switch was to turn on the headlight but he was too busy keeping his eyes on the path to search for it. Then all of a sudden he slammed on the brakes.
There was no more road.
Ahead of him loomed a wall of leaves and branches. The bike skidded on the wet ground and with a sickening sense of the inevitable Will felt it slide underneath him. Then the front wheel struck something and the bike flipped violently. Will felt himself lifted from the seat and tossed head over heels through the air. He had time to wonder how much this was going to hurt and then he was crashing into a green darkness that swallowed everything.

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