“No,” I said. “No, I don’t think so. A language has to make patterns! There’s nothing like that in here.”
“That’s the big secret, lad,” Grandpa Smedry said, taking back the book. “Why do you think nobody, despite centuries of trying, has managed to break the code? The Incarna people—the ones who wrote in this language—held vast secrets. Unfortunately, nobody can read their records, and the Incarna disappeared many centuries ago.”
I wrinkled my brow at the strange comments. Grandpa Smedry stood up, stepping away from the glass box. And suddenly, the shattered front of the box melted and re-formed its glassy surface.
I stepped back in shock. Then I reached up, suspiciously pulling off my glasses. Yet the box still sat pristine, as if it hadn’t been broken in the first place.
“Restoring Glass,” Grandpa Smedry said, nodding toward the box. “Only an Oculator can break it. Once he moves too far away, however, it will re-form into its previous shape. Makes for wonderful safes. It’s even stronger than Builder’s Glass, if used right.”
I slipped my Lenses back on.
“Tell me, lad,” Grandpa Smedry said, laying a hand on my shoulder, “why did you burn down your foster parents’ kitchen?”
I started. That wasn’t the question I’d been expecting. “How did you know about that?”
“Why, I’m an Oculator, of course.”
I just frowned.
“So why?” he asked. “Why burn it down?”
“It was an accident,” I replied.
I looked away. Of course it was an accident, I thought, feeling a bit of shame. Why would I do something like that on purpose?
Grandpa Smedry was studying me. “You have a Talent for breaking things,” he said. “Or so you have said. Yet lighting fire to a set of drapes and ruining a kitchen with smoke doesn’t seem like a use of that Talent. Particularly if you let the fire burn for a while before putting it out. That’s not breaking. That seems more like destroying.”
“I don’t destroy,” I said quietly.
“Why, then?” Grandpa Smedry said.
I shrugged. What was he implying? Did he think I liked messing things up all the time? Did he think I liked being forced to move every few months? It seemed that every time I came to love someone, they decided that my Talent was just too much to handle.
I felt a stab of loneliness but shoved it down.
“Ah,” Grandpa Smedry said. “You won’t answer, I see. But I can still wonder, can’t I? Why would a boy do such damage to the homes of such kind people? It seems like a perversion of his Talent. Yes indeed…”
I said nothing. Grandpa Smedry just smiled at me, then straightened his bow tie and checked his wristwatch. “Garbled Greens! We’re late. Sing! Quentin!”
“We’re ready, Uncle!” a voice called from down the hallway.
“Ah, good,” Grandpa Smedry said. “Come, my boy. Let me introduce you to your cousins!”
Hushlanders, I’d like to take this opportunity to commend you for reading this book. I realize the difficulty you must have gone through to obtain it—after all, no Librarian is likely to recommend it, considering the secrets it exposes about their kind.
Actually, my experience has been that people generally don’t recommend this kind of book at all. It is far too interesting. Perhaps you have had other kinds of books recommended to you. Perhaps, even, you have been given books by friends, parents, or teachers, then told that these books are the type you “have to read.” Those books are invariably described as “important”—which, in my experience, pretty much means that they’re boring. (Words like meaningful and thoughtful are other good clues.)
If there is a boy in these kinds of books, he will not go on an adventure to fight against Librarians, paper monsters, and one-eyed Dark Oculators. In fact, the lad will not go on an adventure or fight against anything at all. Instead, his dog will die. Or, in some cases, his mother will die. If it’s a really meaningful book, both his dog and his mother will die. (Apparently, most writers have something against dogs and mothers.)
Neither my mother nor my dog dies in this book. I’m rather tired of those types of stories. In my opinion, such fantastical, unrealistic books—books in which boys live on mountains, families work on farms, or anyone has anything to do with the Great Depression—have a tendency to rot the brain. To combat such silliness, I’ve written the volume you now hold—a solid, true account. Hopefully it will help anchor you in reality.
So, when people try to give you some book with a shiny round award on the cover, be kind and gracious, but tell them that you don’t read “fantasy,” because you prefer stories that are real. Then come back here and continue your research on the cult of evil Librarians who secretly rule the world.
“This,” Grandpa Smedry proclaimed, pointing to Sing, “is your cousin Sing Sing Smedry. He’s a specialist in ancient weapons.”
Sing nodded modestly. He had exchanged his tunic for what appeared to be a formal kimono—though he still wore his dark sunglasses. The kimono was of a very rich dark blue silk and, though it fit him quite well, there was something … wrong about the entire presentation. More than just the fact that the kimono itself wasn’t something an ordinary person in America wore. Sing’s chest parted the front of the silk, and the loose garment hung tied about the waist with a large sash tucked beneath his massive stomach.
“Uh, nice to meet you Sing … Sing,” I said.
“You can just call me Sing,” the large man replied.
“Ask him what his Talent is,” Grandpa whispered.
“Oh,” I said. “Um, what’s your Talent, Sing?”
“I can trip and fall to the ground,” Sing said.
I blinked. “That’s a Talent?”
“It’s not as grand as some, I know,” Sing said, “but it serves me well.”
“And the kimono?” I asked.
“I come from a different kingdom than your grandfather,” Sing said. “I am from Mokia, while your grandfather and Quentin are from Nalhalla.”
“Okay,” I said. “But what difference does that make?”
“It means I have to wear a different disguise from the rest of you,” Sing explained. “That way, I won’t stand out as much. If I look like a foreigner to America, people will ignore me.”
I paused. “Whatever,” I finally said.
“It makes perfect sense,” Grandpa Smedry said. “Trust me. We’ve researched this.” He turned and pointed to the other man. “Now, this is your cousin Quentin Smedry.” Short and wiry, Quentin wore a sharp tuxedo like that of Grandpa Smedry, complete with a red carnation on the lapel. He had dark brown hair, pale skin, and freckles. Like Sing, he looked to be about thirty years old.
“Well met, young Oculator,” Quentin said from behind his dark sunglasses.
“And what is your Talent?” I dutifully asked.
“I can say things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever.”
“I thought everyone here had that Talent,” I noted.
Nobody laughed. Free Kingdomers never get my jokes.
“He’s also really sneaky,” Grandpa Smedry said.
“Great,” I said. “So, are both of you … Oculators?”
“Oh, goodness no,” Sing said. “We’re cousins to the Smedry family, not members of the direct line.”
“Didn’t you notice the glasses?” Grandpa Smedry asked. “They’re wearing Warrior’s Lenses, one of the only kinds of Lenses that a non-Oculator can use.”
“Um, yes,” I said. “Actually, I did notice the glasses. I … noticed the tuxedos too. Is there a reason you dress like that? If we walk around like this, we’ll kind of stand out, right?”
“Maybe the young lord has a point,” Sing said, rubbing his chin.
Lord? I thought. I had no idea what to make of that.
“Should we get Alcatraz a disguise too, Lord Smedry?” Quentin asked my gr
“No, no,” Grandpa Smedry said. “He isn’t supposed to wear a suit at his age. At least I don’t think…”
“I’m fine,” I said quickly.
The collection of Smedrys nodded.