BOOKS
About this Book
Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools
Enlarge Image

Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools

Written by Philip CaveneyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Philip Caveney


· Delacorte Books for Young Readers
· eBook · April 8, 2008 · $6.99 · 978-0-375-84643-4 (0-375-84643-3)
Also available as an unabridged audiobook download.

  • Add to Barnes and Noble Wish List
  • Add to Good Reads
  • Add to Librarything
  • Add to Shelfari

About this Book About This Book
Read an Excerpt
Read an Excerpt
The ancient wooden caravan creaked slowly out from the cover of the trees and stopped for a moment on the wide stretch of plain.

If there had been anyone to observe the scene they would have noticed the words sebastian darke, prince of fools painted gaily on the sides of the caravan. Those with a keener eye might also have noticed that the word “Sebastian” looked somehow different to the rest of the sentence. It had been added in a rather wobbly, amateurish hand, clearly over- painting another name that had already been there.

The sun was low on the horizon and Sebastian was obliged to shade his eyes with the flat of one hand as he gazed off into the shimmering, heat-rippled distance. The land ahead of him was flat, arid, featureless red earth, baked by the sun, with here and there the occasional bunch of scrubby grass thrusting tenaciously through the soil. He had no real idea how far it was to the city of Keladon, but a merchant he had met the previous day had warned him to expect to travel for at least three days and nights.

“It’s a good distance,” the merchant had told him. “And those plains are infested with Brigands. You’d better sleep with one eye open, Elf-man.”

Sebastian was well used to this term, though he didn’t much care for it. He was a “breed”—the son of a human father and an elvish mother. His tall stature and handsome features clearly came from his father’s side of the family, but his mother’s lineage was there too, reflected in the large jet-black irises of his eyes and his long, slightly pointed ears. His gangly frame was accentuated by the striped black and white costume he was wearing, complete with a tall three-pronged hat topped by jingling bells. The costume had been his father’s and hung rather loosely on Sebastian, but he had steadfastly refused his mother’s offers to alter it, saying that in time he would grow to fit the clothing. Fitting comfortably into the role of a jester might take a little longer.

Sebastian clicked his tongue and slapped the reins against the shaggy haunches of Max, the single buffalope that pulled the caravan. Max snorted, shook his great horned head and set off again at his usual leisurely pace. He had been in the Darke family for as long as Sebastian could remember; indeed, one of his earliest memories was of his father lifting him onto the buffalope’s mighty back and leading him slowly around the paddock. Max was now of advanced years and had many gray hairs peppering the rich ginger of his shaggy hide. With each passing day he seemed to grow more cantankerous, and he had never been slow in stating his dissatisfaction.

“I don’t much like the look of this,” he muttered now, as he started off across the plain. “We’re going to need plenty of water.”

“We’ve got water,” Sebastian told him. “Enough for at least two days. And besides, there are streams out there. That merchant said so.”

Max sniffed disdainfully. “Why you’d take the word of a Berundian oil-seller is quite beyond me,” he said. “A man like that would sell his grandmother for a few croats.”

“You suspect everybody,” Sebastian chided him. “According to you, every person we meet is some kind of villain.”

“That’s because they generally are. I noticed the Berundian managed to sell you some lamp oil.”

“So? We needed some!”

“Not at three croats a bottle we didn’t. Daylight robbery! Back at the market in Jerabim you could get a bucket of the stuff for—”

“We’re not in Jerabim now,” Sebastian reminded him.

They moved on in gloomy silence for a while and Sebastian found himself thinking wistfully about his hometown, the place he’d lived for all of his seventeen years. He closed his eyes for a moment and saw the big bustling market in the town square, where prosperous merchants in their embroidered cloaks loudly advertised their wares as the townspeople moved past them. Suddenly a whole series of familiar images, smells and tastes assailed Sebastian’s senses. He saw the richly decorated textiles and carpets that hung from wooden frames around the many stalls. He smelled the rich odors of the cattle pens, where people came to barter for buffalopes and equines. He tasted the delicious tang of the hot sherbet they served in the cafés, and savored the warm aroma of elvish coffee emanating from the many restaurants that lined the square. . . .

Then he had a vivid recollection of his mother’s face on the day he’d finally left home—her red-rimmed eyes; her brave, forlorn attempt at a smile. Sitting up on the seat of the caravan, he’d called down to her that he’d be back just as soon as he’d made his fortune, that all her troubles would be over . . . but neither of them had really believed it.

“Take care of yourself, Sebastian,” she’d called to him. “Remember, if things don’t work out for you, I’ll still be here!”

That had been three moons ago. He didn’t like to think of her sitting alone at night in the shabby homestead, while the cold night winds sighed outside the window—

“This is tedious!” Max’s whining voice broke rudely into his thoughts. “I mean, look at it. There’s nothing out there, not even a hill or a tree. The least you could do is humor me with a little conversation.”

“I’m not in the mood,” said Sebastian. “Besides, most buffalopes know their place. They don’t jabber incessantly at their owners.”

“You’re not my owner,” Max reminded him. “That honor belonged to your father.”

“He’s been dead over a year now. I inherited the house and I inherited you. Accept the fact and shut up!”

“Oh, that’s charming, isn’t it!” exclaimed Max in disgust. “Downgraded to a mere possession. Well, at least I know where I stand.”

Sebastian immediately regretted his words. “It’s not like that. You’re not a possession. It’s more . . . you’re more of a . . .”

“Servant? Chattel?”

“I was going to say . . . a partner.”

Max seemed rather pleased with this. He lifted his head a little and walked with fresh spring in his step. “A partner,” he mused. “Well, yes, let’s face it, you wouldn’t have got this far without my help. Who was it showed you the path through Geltane Woods? Eh? And it was my idea to take shelter in that pine grove last night.”

“I’m very grateful,” Sebastian assured him. “Really.” The last thing he needed right now was a buffalope that didn’t feel like walking anymore.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools by Philip Caveney Copyright © 2008 by Philip Caveney. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.