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[ Read more about author Valerie Estelle Frankel ]



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Unapproved, unendorsed, unofficial, and unstoppable: An award-winning parody for all ages. The devious Lord Revolting has split his soul into seven Plot Devices, from the One Ring to Coloring Book of Doom. Destroying the Ministry of Muckups, he launches himself on a campaign of terror and ruthlessness, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the last Wizneyland Princess Beach Week. Can Henry Potty, lousy student and heroic Chosen One, destroy the Plot Devices in time? Or will a paper shortage kill him, as the loudmouthed ghost of Bumbling Bore foresees? Join Henry as he duels unexploded mimes, flying monkeys, telemarketers, and the dreaded Tooth Fairy. It’s a race against National Treasures, Legions of Dimness, and Miniclorians, from the Funhouse of Terror to Chickenfeet Academy. But if Henry wants to recoup his fans from Professor Sniffly Snort, he must try. As the epic battle nears, only one thing is certain: Henry Potty’s series is numbered.


Henry Potty and the Deathly Paper Shortage: An Unauthorized Parody

by Valerie Estelle Frankel

"So what are these National Treasures I have to find?" Henry Potty asked.

"The Mega Death Laser 3000, the Bucket of Extra Lives, and the Very Wizardly Hat. The latter can produce bunnies and trick decks of cards, and all manner of wondrous marvels. Some even say..." Here Bumbling Bore paused dramatically. "...it is alive! Most don't, of course, but it's still a groovy accessory."

"And you think I should find all three? Even though I'm up to my ears in quests and items already? I mean, the motorhome's bursting at the seams."

Bumbling Bore nodded sagely. "You also need to find the thirteen treasures of Britain, the fourteen things on my laundry list, the three Unbelievable Curses--"

"Got those," Henry muttered. "You were gullible enough to let Frankenstein teach us in our fourth year."

"... A Golden Ticket, the Subtle Compass, Santa's wishlist, Carmen Santiago, the lost plunger, the Last Manticore, the six great Stopsigns of the Light, a bottle of dehydrated water, the Perfect Chicken Strip, the Used Handkerchief of Destiny Upon Which Angels Themselves..."

"Forget it. I'm just going after the Plot Devices!"

Bumbling Bore nodded sagely. He didn't know any other way to nod. "Then you're a better man than I. You've passed the test. Many would've been tempted by hot babes, unlimited wealth, and domination over the entire earth. But, no, you choose to risk your life destroying the worthless fragments of Lord Revolting."

Henry cleared his throat. "Did you say hot babes?"

***

Henry Potty and the Deathly Paper Shortage

An Unauthorized Harry Potter Parody

by Valerie Estelle Frankel

www. HarryPotterParody.com

***

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Dimness is Rising

Chapter 2: My Big Fat Nondenominational Wedding

Chapter 3: The League of Extraordinarily Green Things

Chapter 4: A Series of Unfortunate Camping Trips

Chapter 5: It's a Wonderful Nutcracker

Chapter 6: The Phantom Funhouse

Chapter 7: National Treasures

Chapter 8: Fired from On High

Chapter 9: Crossing Over

Chapter 10: Are We Done Yet?

***

Introduction

Author's Note:

This book is SUITABLE FOR ALL AGES. Some more so than others.

Supplementary Note:

Even so, this parody may be offensive to the following groups: Pirates, parrots, pirates' parrots, lawyers, telemarketers, vampires, ghosts, ghasts, guests, red-shirted security guards, adolescents, adolescuncles, children, adults, fundamentalists, Spanish Inquisitors, Polish Mafia stooges, minions, vegetarians, humanitarians, new-agers, old-agers, elves, fantasy writers, professors, orcs, puppets, battle droids, frogs, lice, hail, darkness, corpses, and fictional characters.

Supplementary Supplement:

Within the novel lurk similar weighty issues to those in Harry Potter, including death, birth, rebirth, war, violence, sexual orientation, politics, social commentary, and cafeteria food. If you prefer to experience these issues only on TV, in computer games, on the news, and at school, rather than in books, you should not read further, or even handle this book without adequate protection.

Supplement to the Supplementary Supplement:

In fact, some of the puns are known to be venomous and strike out if they've missed feeding time.

PS: This stand-alone novel, book seven, is the sequel to Henry Potty and the Pet Rock. Some might think that after book one would come book two, and then three, and so on in some logical fashion. Those people lack imagination. This author, on the other hand, has a chorus of singing potatoes to guide her. Shall we?

Chapter 1:

The Dimness is Rising

Vast drifts of white peacock poop dotted Lord Revolting's Funhouse of Terror and Magical Thrill Ride. Come one, Come all: Tour the Haunted House and Get Well and Truly Scared, boasted the blinking neon sign. Under it, a small tag read Two thousand and one evil deeds done. High on the hill towered the rotting gothic mansion Lord Revolting had renovated into a rotting administration hub, freak show, and lost children center. The off-duty minions were currently in the basement playing foosball and trying to rig the pinball machines. Below, in the dungeon, captured wandmakers were having their spirits broken by constant brutal exposure to taped reruns of daytime TV. Those who resisted were shown the shopping channel. Up above, Lord Revolting was having his Chief Lackeys to dinner.

"You, you, and you." Voice grating like a sack of muddy gravel, Revolting gestured to three elves. "Slice yourselves open so the good bits fall on my plate."

As the elves hastened to comply, Lord Revolting leaned back in his creaky chair. Festooned with heaps of garbage over a shiny layer of green makeup, he still smelled like the hind end of a diseased orangutan. The Dim Lord began stroking his large white cat, which turned instantly brown from his unwashed hands. He scrutinized his Legions of Dimness as they cowered around the dining table. So many of his evil minions had been killed in previous books that he'd widened his recruitment pool to significantly naughty malcontents, halfwits, and even movie stars. Miffie Muffet, school bully with adorable brown ringlets and button nose. Wormsnail, so named for his diet. The Phantom of the Cesspit. Dracula. The Mummy. The Blob. Mr. Hide. The Wicked Witch of the West. Sniffly Snort, inscrutable as always. And last, the dreaded Tooth Fairy, fangs bared. Only two of these were the same person.

Revolting straightened. "Welcome, everyone. I hope after a summer at management training camp you've all revitalized your cruelest core competencies: hexing, squelching, mangling, and the like. As you know, this is the year we increase death production, employ cutting-edge technology to shred our enemies into puppy chow, and downsize the Wizarding World until it capsizes. I don't just mean the dull bits. In fact, we'll be implementing my hostile corporate takeover of...wait for it... Chickenfeet Academy itself."

The Lackeys applauded.

"I'll expect your proposals on my desk in the next ten minutes. Now, for the old business: Who gets nominated for our weekly Competency Award? Remember there's a muffin basket in it for you."

Dracula leaned forward, smacking bloodless lips. "My plan to incapacitate the Ministry of Muckups is nearly complete! One more week of serving them decaf and they'll be too sluggish to resist us."

"And the rest of you?"

"I convinced the Polish Mafia to give us all their knickerbocker sausages at a third off!"

"I used this golden compass to chip a hole in the ozone layer!"

"I sent out twelve thousand junk emails."

"I kicked a man in the shins and stole his lunch money."

"I got Dorothy...and her little dog, too!"

Mr. Hide, a tiny hairy urban cannibal, gibbered incoherently from under the table. No one had ever caught more than a glimpse of him as he scampered from cover to cover, occasionally strangling anything smaller than he was, which wasn't much.

The greenish and gooey Blob slurped as if sucking the last bit of milkshake up a straw. No one asked for details.

Only one man (or woman or nauseating thing) at the table remained silent, as he had no need to speak. Oh, he could speak, and quite well; he'd even been a cooking professor before a tiny indiscretion of first-degree murder had hastened his retirement. However, his deeds could speak for themselves.

Lord Revolting favored him with a very cold, very thin, very oily smile. (He had left his thin, oily dentures in the freezer overnight). "Well, Professor Snort. In the time you've been working for this organization, I see you've maximized potential scream capacity, underwritten our expenses in iron maidens and thumbscrews, reduced the number of idiots working for me, and disposed neatly of their bodies. At this rate, you may be CEO someday soon." His eyes narrowed. "Too soon. Why don't you take my pet, Slimy, for a walk? And a little massage, if his poisonous secretions aren't flowing freely."

Sniffly Snort was the newcomer to the group, hastily promoted after a number of mysterious deaths. His wizard bathrobe was thin and austere, allowing onlookers a glimpse of his equally austere socks and undergarments. He was pale and tall, so much so that some mistook him for Lord Revolting's far-less-disgusting half-brother. This was almost certainly untrue. Professor Snort blew his nose, taking his time with the honking and gentlemanly sniff. He tossed the soaked handkerchief to some elves, who scrambled for it greedily. "You forget, Your Great Rottenness, I already did so." He snapped off a pair of heavy-strength industrial gloves, half-dissolved with poisoned worm secretions. "Perhaps you're the one who needs exercise. A brief stroll along that picturesque bridge overlooking the shark tank might coax a healthy green glow into your cheeks."

Lord Revolting's eyes narrowed. "Isn't that bridge hanging by a thread?"

Professor Snort was saved having to answer as a messenger ran into the room. "Henry Potty's escaping!"

Lord Revolting drew his wand and shot the messenger, killing him instantly. "How? Where?" he demanded.

"He seems at a loss for words," Snort commented neutrally. "Not to mention his head. However, as I've already told you, a perfect source has spent seventeen years protecting Henry Potty, only to turn traitor now at the last minute. He says the boy should be on his way to the park now if we want to show up and grind him into duck food.

"Well, that would certainly make the ducks happy, wouldn't it?" Revolting mused. "All right. You've only tried to kill me once today, so let me get my coat."

The doorbell rang. "Trick or Treat!"

"Get lost!" Revolting shouted. "Can't you see I'm consulting my Legions of Dimness?"

Snort raised a finger. "Effluvious One, I must protest."

"You like Trick or Treaters? Then you can run to the market."

In answer, Snort waved his wand out the window, prompting shrieks of terror and a barrage of fading footsteps. "Indeed, no. I'm wondering if you'll continue to call us that."

Revolting drew himself up stiffly at the verbal glove Snort had tossed. The other Chief Lackeys shrank in their seats. "You take your names from me. `Dim Lord' strikes fear into the huddled masses, an imposing phrase suggesting murky lighting. And you know I don't like having my name said aloud. Everyone always pronounces it funny."

"Indeed. But `The Dim Lord and his Legions of Dimness' also implies a certain..." Snort's voice trailed off at Revolting's sneer. "On second thought, it's perfect. Congratulations. Shall we go slaughter the Potty boy now?"

The Tooth Fairy heaved her mallet and crowbar, displaying her twelve-inch beribboned fangs. "We will not fail."

"Meeting adjourned," Revolting said.

"Don't forget your sweaters," the Mummy cackled.

And they left.

***

Meanwhile, on the other side of the wizarding world...

Henry Potty was so famous he couldn't even stand it. There had been movie deals and book clubs and toothpaste brands. Conventions and media circuses and crazed fans tearing off his jacket and pants, only to reveal he'd forgotten to put on underwear that day. But it wasn't enough.

"Where is Lord Revolting," Henry wondered. "And why, in all these books, haven't I beaten him yet?"

"Seek the pieces of his soul," whispered an unearthly disembodied voice carried on a single puff of wind. "And yoooooooouuuuuu will destroy hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimmmmmmmmm forever."

Henry fell over, stunned into an enchanted sleep.

He awoke three inches from his undead mentor's nostrils. The rest of the mentor, unfortunately, was there as well, hovering over the bed. Henry grimaced. Having his old principal hanging around as a ghost had ruined his summer, especially since the exterminators were on strike. "Stop boring me!"

"You could ignore me," Bumbling Bore said reasonably. A tall, bearded, nightgowned old man, he could stun people with a single phrase: Class, open your books.

"I just keep hoping you'll say something useful," Henry complained. "All you ever say is `Seek the pieces of his soul.' I don't know what you're talking about."

"It's very simple. The evil Lord Revolting has divided his soul into seven Plot Devices. He turned the Gizzarding World into a morass of evil and despair. The Ministry of Muckups responded in a savage, fearless campaign by changing our name back to the Wizarding World, still in a morass of evil and despair, by the way. And you, the Chosen One, are doomed to defeat him before he destroys you. Clear?"

Henry rolled over and hauled the covers over his head. "I'll find them after lunch."

Bumbling Bore sat on Henry's desk chair and sank right through it, so that his knees were bumping his nose. "I come back from the realm of death and the only person I can speak to is you."

"As my manager, you're under a seven year contract," Henry said. "I'm not breaking that just because you're dead."

"And now that I am, you don't listen to a word."

"I listen. Just not when you make those stupid adult comments like, `I'll tell you when you're older' or `your face will freeze that way,' or `Professor Snort's on our side.'"

"I have the utmost trust in Professor Snort."

Henry blinked. "Still? He tried to kill me a bunch of times. He shot the curator at the Louvre. He cut down all the beautiful trees to build his Fortress of Doom. He tied Little Nell to the train tracks. And didn't he murder you?"

"Only somewhat. And he certainly didn't mean to bring about this deathly paper shortage."

"What! I thought that referred to all the forests we chopped down to publish my series. You mean there's more going on?"

"No, no, of course not."

"There's something, isn't there?"

Bumbling Bore twitched and dropped his ghostly glasses through his ghostly lap. "What? Why would you think that?"

"Because I may have failed all my classes, but I'm not that much of a moron. So what is it? What are you hiding? Will I need to sacrifice my life or something?"

"Only if you swallowed a Plot Device by mistake." Bumbling Bore eyed him. "You didn't, did you? That would be really foolish. Even for you."

"Then what's going on?"

"Nothing," Bumbling Bore huffed. "It's not as if I screwed up in my managerial duties because of being dead, and allowed Revolting an additional method of taking over the world in just a few months through an unforeseen loophole. Not at all."

"Uh huh," Henry said, unconvinced. "And about those duties--I'm not impressed. Since I've been a movie star, kids have fallen in love with tons of other novels. What about me?" He gazed around at his room. Once bursting with homemade memorabilia, from endorsed soda cans to toothpick holders, it now held items of a more mature nature: acne medicine, Getting a Girlfriend for Lamebrains, t-shirts that audaciously displayed his lack of muscles, and a certificate proving he was legally, although probably not functionally, an adult. On the cusp of his seventeenth birthday (not to mention Lord Revolting's destruction of the Wizarding World) Henry had tabled his plans to release Henry Potty exclusive chewing gum (tastes just like him!) and was concentrating on survival and the bare essentials, rather than merchandising. Even the Henry Potty toilet paper project had been scrapped: After seven books, paper was getting scarcer.

Meanwhile, his pet flying pig, Hortense, flapped aimlessly around the room and straight through Bumbling Bore, who started and growled under his breath. "You're still ignoring my advice, aren't you? Hey, Henry, you want a real shocker? I'm gay. I'm GAY!!!!"

"Congratulations," Henry said, dangling treats for Hortense. "That white ghostly look was getting tiring."

"Gay, not gray! I am Bumbling Bore the Gay and I've been teaching wizarding teens for centuries!"

"Really? Just centuries?"

"I'm younger than I look," Bumbling Bore muttered. "But doesn't that concern you? Don't you want to argue about that a lot on chatrooms or buy a thousand copies of my autobiography, The Life and Times of a Total Windbag Who Happens to be Gay and Isn't Just Saying that for Cheap Publicity? I've come out of the broom closet. Aren't you intrigued?"

Henry blinked. "Maybe fifty years ago, back when interracial marriage was outlawed and people hunted squirrels for entertainment. But in the wizarding world we good guys aren't prejudiced, except against those snooty French wizards, who always insult our cooking."

Bumbling Bore grimaced. "I thought they liked frogs. How was I to know they don't belong in shepherd's pie?" He eyed Henry. "So you're not going to post on a dozen chatrooms loudly debating my love life? How about something else? My collection of antique sugar bowls?"

"Or your fashion sense?" Henry suggested. "Although the housedresses you wear make a little more sense now. I thought you just let your mother pick them out."

"They aren't housedresses," Bumbling Bore thundered. He loomed upward ten feet, and his knees magically no longer bumped his nose. "They are state-of-the-art wizard bathrobes, a tradition that has reigned for centuries. It is said: do not mess with a wizard's dress sense, for after thousands of years of bathrobes, we won't listen when you say we look silly!"

"That's been said?"

"Everywhere. Now why aren't you dressed yet?"

Henry draped an arm over his eyes. "You just said sloppy bathrobes count."

"Not for a wedding."

"Really Wimpy's to Horrendous Gangrene?"

"Of course. And you're the best man. Or best something anyway. Now get dressed. I'll be downstairs, telling off your aunt and uncle for the seventh time."

***

After Bumbling Bore had knocked Henry's closest relatives into a stupor, the pair left the house. Henry eyed his vacuum cleaner where it leaned against the shed. Someone had traced "Please wash me" with a fingertip. "Is it safe to travel? I mean with the doom and despair and vicious name changing and so forth?"

"Relax," Bumbling Bore said. "You won't die this early in the book."

"Well, that's true," Henry said, brightening.

"Besides, it's not as if I'd deliberately betray your plans to Revolting himself, just to keep my semi-loyal double agent in work. Even in this huge recession we're having. I mean, that would be unforgivable, not to mention stupid, betraying the Chosen One just for a few dollars--which I haven't received by the way."

"Pounds."

Bumbling Bore blinked.

"We're in England, so it's pounds, not dollars."

"Of course, of course. Quite right. Well, off you go."

"Wait, you babysat me all summer and now you're staying behind? Bumbling Bore, you're responsible for my education."

Bumbling Bore's eyes narrowed. "Is that a statement or an accusation?" He shrugged. "Well, I've prepared you as well as someone with my limited capabilities can. And I don't think you'll need me for the next, say, hour or two."

"How `bout the rest of my life?"

"Yes, that's what I said. Now, off you go."

So Henry flew off blissfully into the sun.

***

A few minutes later, on the other other side of the wizarding world...

Henry alighted by the duck pond. His vacuum had mysteriously run out of gas, and duck guano would substitute well in a pinch. Just then, a dark shadow sprang from the bushes. A lighter shadow unrolled beside it.

Henry clapped both hands to his cheeks and screamed. "Ahhhhhhhh! It's Dracula and the Mummy."

He spun. The Phantom was flicking his fingers menacingly from behind a tree. "A weird neurotic guy in a cape and top hat!" The Blob squelched out, and Henry's eyes widened. "And...last night's dinner?"

A magical shot rang out from behind the grassy knoll. Blasted from a green grease-painted hand, it headed unerringly for Henry's head, preparing to turn it into a bowl of mint custard. Far away, the AUTHOR'S fingers spasmed on the keyboard. She'd made Revolting too powerful! And if Henry ended this early, so would the book.

Just then, a miracle happened. Henry ducked, and as he did, his wand shuddered and fired of its own volition in the knoll's direction. A blast shook the air, coupled with an acidic sizzle. "That's impossible," Henry murmured. If he'd listened, he might have discerned the faint garbage-scented cry of "My batteries! No!" Oblivious, however, Henry aimed his wand carefully at the Blob. "Expeli-arms!"

Nothing happened.

In desperation, Henry shot the same spell at the Phantom, who screamed as his arms fell off at the shoulders and tumbled uselessly to the ground.

Abandoning his ineffective vacuum, Henry ran. The grass was uneven and hilly, with occasional slippery patches the ducks had clearly visited. Behind him he heard the sharp squeals of the Tooth Fairy, bent on her prey. Twin scents of ozone and burned teeth hovered ever closer. Encircling him, the horror movie henchmen flung ancient bandages and sharp spells, while the grass only provided cover for Henry's precious toes. Thud! Henry tumbled against a familiar figure. "Ahhhhhh! The Dogman!" He clapped his hands to his cheeks, even though it hadn't helped him the last time. "Aaaargh!"

"Quiet, I'm on your side."

Henry stared at Rover S. Barkin, last of his father's dearest friends who hadn't betrayed him or been killed in some horrible way. Bitten by a weirdwolf years before, the Dogman was mostly shaggy canine: just as furry and about as intelligent. Some of the foremost pedigree experts in the world had pronounced him part golden retriever, part collie, and part used mop. "Oh, good. Brought me a birthday present?"

"Yes, but there's no time for that now! We're in great danger! If we're not back for dinner, my wife will have me declawed!"

The monsters had left their protective cover and were sneaking (in one case, squelching) closer. Henry ducked as a frayed bandage lashed far too close. He clutched the Dogman's fur coat, only to realize he wasn't wearing one. "Every scary monster from the last hundred years of cinema is chasing me. I need your help!"

"I'm on it." The Dogman turned to face the monsters. "Hey, uglies. Know who this is?"

"Oh yes." The Tooth Fairy cackled in triumph. "Now leave him to us."

"This is Henry Potty. He's expected at his movie premiere next week. If he doesn't show up..."

The Mummy reached under its bandages to scratch its head. The Blob chewed its squelchy lips.

"Ve vant the boy," Dracula said, but it lacked heart. Mostly because his hadn't beat for centuries.

"But you also want a remake of Dracula II. And Son of the Curse of Dracula. And Dracula Bites It. If Henry doesn't show up, and teens lose faith in the movie industry, we've all had it!"

The Tooth Fairy hesitated. She didn't have a movie, but she had dreams. "Fine, we'll pick him up after the premiere. But I want tickets. Good ones."

"You'll get them," the Dogman promised as he fetched the vacuum and led Henry away. "Right after my big break," he muttered. "Legions of Dimness indeed."

"Expeli-arms!" Henry shouted at the Blob, for good measure. Again, nothing happened.

The Dogman sighed. "Sheesh, Henry, it's like you don't know any other spells."

"I don't. Haven't you noticed how much I cut class? Now, c'mon. I'm supposed to be the best man, and I'll bet there's still cake."

The Dogman's tail wagged. "I'll poof us there." He snapped his furry fingers, and they vanished in a fluffy cloud of coconut-scented smoke and cheap stage effects. As they catapulted through the air toward the wedding, neither recalled the sabotaged vacuum or the mysterious figure behind the grassy knoll.

***

On whichever side of the wizarding world we were at in the first place...

"Blast, foiled again!" Revolting flung his wand onto the desk, groaning at the clunk of fried batteries. "I hate not getting what I want! Dim Lackeys, recruit some more dim minions! And tell my ghoulfriend I can't pick up pizza and a video, but if she wants to be helpful she could iron my tux, the one with two custard stains and the unsightly greenish blob on the elbow." He smashed his fist down on the table, flinging silverware in all directions. "We have a wedding to crash!"

Chapter 2:

My Big Fat Nondenominational Wedding

The wedding hall was spectacular, from golden streamers and balloons to golden globes, gold stars, golden eagles, and Olympic gold medals. Henry rushed through all the decorated rooms to find the bride waiting outside the chapel. Horrendous Gangrene was beaming (though it would be hard not to, with all that reflected light). Otherwise, she looked the same as ever, from bushy hair to tiny knapsack (with her wand tucked neatly inside). She'd dabbed Eau de Pencil Shavings, her favorite, behind each ear. Fussing over her were her stocky, red-haired in-laws-to-be, the Wimpys, and their only daughter, Skinny Ann Wimpy. Skinny and Henry were dating, occasionally each other.

Ignoring his girlfriend, Henry rushed into Horrendous's arms. "Wow, you're getting married while we're all under death threats. That's so grown-up!"

"Thanks." She held him close in a jumble of too many elbows and then drew back, eying Henry's mismatched socks and tennis shoes. "I guess girls really do mature faster."

"Ahem!" Skinny, already in a slinky dress, crossed her arms in a way that tightened her gown still further. Her upswept auburn curls fizzled with annoyance. "Weren't you, like, coming in disguise?"

Henry stared at her interesting neckline until Horrendous punched him in the kidney. "I am! I used disguise-o potion to grow a mustache!"

Skinny eyed him. "So that's what that smudge is."

"Hey!"

"Sweetie, you've so gotta be more careful! There's a price on your head." She reached up and pulled the price tag off his hood.

"Gosh, Skinny, it's been so long! I wish I could ask you on a real date, instead of just a picnic where I make you pack all the food, but I'm going off to battle Lord Revolting." Henry made his eyes as big as possible. "I may not...survive it." He felt an urge to sing something soulful and tragic. Or given his voice, maybe just tragic.

"Oh, Henry!" Skinny stepped closer. Her golden lipstick glistened. "I wanna give you something, like, totally magical. Something to remind you, when you meet alien babes and beautiful wood nymphs, that I'm sitting at home by the fire, waiting for you."

"Cool!" Henry puckered up.

Skinny snapped a magical binder clip on his lips.

"Mph?!"

"If you kiss another girl it'll sever your tongue." Skinny smiled sweetly. "Hurry back, baby."

Mrs. Wimpy neatened Horrendous's veil. "It's so nice that you're marrying my son," she cooed. "He so needs someone to take care of him."

"Definitely," Mr. Wimpy said. "It's so selfless of you to give up your dreams of a career and button him into his little onesie each night. Oh, and mop up his accidents."

Horrendous's smile grew brittle.

"Henry, you should let Horrendous and Really honeymoon instead of dragging them on your silly quest," Mrs. Wimpy said. "Why not stay here where it's safe and marry Skinny?"

Henry yanked off the binder clip. Under Skinny's stern gaze, he shoved it into his pocket. "The entire fate of the wizarding world depends on my going!"

"Oh, well, if getting killed is so much more important to you than staying here with your girlfriend, there's not much I can do." Mrs. Wimpy's voice dripped with an expert's touch of guilt. "I've only brought you up over the years, with barely any help from your relatives and godparents and mentors and pets." She glanced at Henry's companion. "Oh, Dogman, your wife's waiting inside. She says if you don't bring her some ice water, she's foretelling a very unhappy future for you, involving a carton of eggs, you, and a twelve-pound mallet." Mrs. Wimpy waggled her finger. "Banshees can predict the future, you know. I'd watch myself."

The Dogman closed his eyes and howled. "She would pick today to start wailing on me."

Skinny shook her head sympathetically. "Women."

"Well, then. I think everything's set," Mrs. Wimpy said. She tugged an eight-page list from her pocket and glanced over it. "The stuffed tomatoes are sizzling, steaks are teriyaki-ing, Mariachi band's set up, Chinese lanterns are lit, escargot's within its expiration date, and only two elves have fallen into the custard pies."

"Ever heard of a theme?" Horrendous muttered.

Mrs. Wimpy pretended to ignore her. "And Higgle will come for the reception. There was some excuse, but I couldn't quite make it out." Higgle, a brown puffball of a person, was honorary professor of Animal Care and Champion Mumbler at Chickenfeet. She scanned down the list. "Dogman, have you been checked for fleas?" At his nod, she checked off and folded her list. "Let's all go in. My son's been waiting by the altar for quite a while, while we make sure everything's perfect." She smoothed a bow, then fluffed it, then smoothed it, then fluffed it. This is obligatory at weddings. "Horrendous, wait here while I signal the band. Then it's up the aisle and off to the happiest moment of your life. Better than the rest will be, anyway."

If Horrendous's smile had been able to detach, it would've fallen to the ground and shattered.

***

Really Wimpy had matured from a short, gangly child to a short, gangly adolescent. Over the course of six books, he'd grown pimples and bangs, with a voice that cracked when he breathed. In honor of his wedding, his mother had removed the training wheels from his racing vacuum. Now he waited expectantly by the altar, shuffling his feet and fidgeting.

Henry hurried up to him. The room was packed with whispering guests. "I'm not late, am I?"

"No later than Horrendous. She should've walked up the aisle two hours ago." Really Wimpy fidgeted some more. "I'm afraid she's getting cold feet."

"I'll save this wedding!" Henry pointed his wand at the back wall. Everyone in the chapel ducked, especially the ones in front.

With a single wave of his wand, Henry vanished the wall, exposing Horrendous standing half-in and half-out of the special gold stretch vacuum cleaner. A calligraphied sign on the back read, Congratulations on Wasting your Life!

Henry smiled. Poor Horrendous was so foolish she'd been ready to leave the chapel without getting married. "Hey, Horrendous, the altar's up here."

"Oh," Horrendous said through gritted teeth. Her glare could have pulverized a steel building. "Thanks." She glanced up the aisle at Really Wimpy. He was wearing his big boy shoes without the Velcro. "Right," she sighed. "Let's do this." As a dozen rented elves hummed the Wedding March in a dozen different keys, Horrendous picked up her bouquet of corrected homework assignments and entered the chapel. She truly looked lovely, all the guests agreed, from her fluffy poufy puffy dress to her gilded protractor. She floated up the aisle like a delicate, wind-tossed blossom, thanks to the helium balloons tied to the corners of her skirts. Skinny staggered behind her, lugging twenty pounds of gilded train.

"Welcome," said the nondenominational wizarding clergyperson responsible for egalitarian civil unions. (It must be noted: some view this series and those like it as a religious allegory. Others believe it promotes devil worship. A few realize it's definitely both. To cater to as many different tastes as possible, this wedding has been staged in a neutral location that doesn't impose beliefs of any sort. Likewise, the not-terribly-politically-correct witches have become, instead, new age whiches, though this doesn't stop them from baking gingerbread houses and cackling over cauldrons. Readers are encouraged to insert details for an orthodox, civil, or satanic ceremony as desired, with whichever [or wizardever] type of clergyperson they find most appropriate.)

"Dearly beloved," he or she said. "We gather in the sight of...er...the deity or deities of one's choice to join this which and this wizard in holy or at least municipally legalized matrimony."

"They both look so grown up," murmured one of the guests.

"Sunrise, sunset," a second sobbed.

"I thought we were calling ourselves gizzards?" whispered a third.

"Changed in committee."

"Ahem," said the nondenominational wizarding clergyperson. "If I might have quiet, I'm trying to proceed with this ceremony designed to offend no one, from religious fundamentalists to religious new-agers. Now if I might continue?"

A moment's silence appeased him or her, and he or she proceeded.

"Do you, Really Wimpy, vow to love, protect, and defend Horrendous with your life, even though we're in the middle of a war and you both might be dead by tomorrow?"

"I wrote our own vows," Horrendous whispered to Henry. (Readers may insert any vows they wish if these are inappropriate.)

Really Wimpy quaked in his boots. He leaned forward and urgently whispered to the clergyperson.

"I see. Then do you, Really Wimpy, vow to be an equal, self-reliant partner in your marriage, and a support for Horrendous to lean on if she doesn't require you to do anything too risky or frightening?"

Really Wimpy leaned in again and whispered more. Horrendous was twitching her hand toward her wand.

"Oh my. Are you sure you should be doing this then? Well, all right. Really Wimpy, do you at least vow to take out the trash now and then? To the best of your ability?"

"I do," Really said proudly. It was so nice being treated as an adult. Even his pet fish didn't do that.

"Finally. All right, then, Horrendous, do you vow to completely support and care for Really Wimpy, even though he appears to have put his shoes on the wrong feet, and never ever stop babysitting him for an instant for the rest of your natural life, so help you deity or deities of one's choice?"

Horrendous swallowed hard, glancing from her expectant groom to his eager parents. "Um, can I have a minute?"

The clergyperson grimaced. "I'm afraid we only have the hall until eleven. And you're delaying the caterers."

"Right. Um. I--I--ah, um--"

The clergyperson helpfully mouthed, "I do."

"I--ah--"

"Excuse me, I feel I must interrupt," a voice said from the remains of the doorway.

"Thank God!" Horrendous said. "Or, um, deity or deities of one's choice."

"Another interruption!" roared the clergyperson. "The next person who says a single word will be Darned to the depths of Heck and burned in the everlasting fires of Tarnation. If you believe in that thing. Which some of us do. And some don't. And that's okay." He or she glanced around and realized his or her threat wasn't very devastating.

Mrs. Wimpy leapt to her feet. "You can't stop the wedding! We eliminated that `if anyone sees a reason these two should not be married' part." She glanced around and realized everyone was staring. "Well, it delays the kissing. Horrendous, pucker up."

"Married?" A wizard in a six-piece suit strode up the aisle. All heads swung in his direction. The ushers shuffled their feet, clearly unclear whether to escort him out or escort him in. "Oh, I'm so sorry. No, this has nothing to do with the wedding. I should have called first, shouldn't I? Oh dear."

"Why are you here?" Horrendous asked, in the tone of one who will listen all day.

"I'm looking for Henry Potty." All heads swung in Henry's direction.

"I knew it! You so work for Revolting!" Skinny pointed her wand at him, along with everyone else in the room. (That is, everyone pointed wands. It pays to be precise, even in high-tension situations like this. Plus it draws out the suspense.)

"No! I'm an innocent lawyer!" All heads swung back in his direction. There was a pause while everyone digested this. The statement was so astonishing it was probably true. "I'm here to read Professor Whata Bumbling Bore's last will." The wands lowered. The lawyer cleared his throat. "So, I guess now's a bad time?" He glanced hopefully at the five-tier cake dominating the banquet table.

"Not for presents!" Henry exclaimed. "Hand it over, what'd he give me?"

"This is very inappropriate." Horrendous glanced at Really Wimpy. He was grinning hopefully. "Take your time, Henry."

"Well then, let's get started." The lawyer tugged a set of legal briefs from one pocket and legal boxers from the other. He opened the briefs and began to read:

"I, Whata Bumbling Bore, being of sound mind and body, except for the left arm which is falling off, and the mind, which is anyone's guess, do make the following bequests:

"For Henry Can'tyouteachthatkidtousea Potty, a dozen boxes of his fan mail and a note." The lawyer motioned to three wheelbarrow-laden men who trooped up the aisle and tipped fifteen boxes onto the floor. To Mr. and Mrs. Wimpy's delight, most of them blocked the escape route. "Shall I read the message?" the lawyer asked. "I already opened it, and it didn't look too personal."

"Sure."

"Ahem. `Dear Henry. All these letters are cluttering my desk. Dispose of them or I'll dispose of you. Your manager.'"

"Gee, not as helpful as it could be. Is there anything else? Money?"

The lawyer kicked him in the pants. "I'm sorry, that was in my instructions. Continuing..."

"To Really Incredibly Wimpy, I leave this lump of gum I found under my sandal. It will prove useful beyond imagining in these dark times."

"I'll say," said Really, already chomping away. "There's still a little of the gum's flavor. Or some flavor, anyhow. Kind of a wet dog bouquet."

Henry shuddered. This from a kid willing to eat many-flavored bugs.

"To Horrendous Grungy Gangrene: some advice. Don't marry Really Wimpy. Get out before it's too late."

"Hey!" Really Wimpy said around his mouthful of dog-flavored gum.

"So useful," Horrendous muttered. She glanced at Really out of the corner of her eye as he stretched out long strings of used gum and then coiled them back up on his none-too-clean finger.

"Sure it was! We found out we all have middle names." Henry sounded them out. "I wonder what mine means."

"There's also a package for Horrendous," the lawyer said. "It seems he left you a cheat guide on how to win the game. I mean, book."

Henry stared. "Hey, Defeating Lord Revolting for Lamebrains! I almost read it as a first-year student!"

"You knew about this?" Horrendous snatched the cheat guide to her chest. "And for seven books, you've been, what? Planning to try it someday?"

"It's eighty pages," Henry muttered defensively. "Plus I figured you'd get to it eventually if you read the library cover to cover."

"Actually, she wouldn't have," the lawyer commented. "It was shelved at the far end, and this is a short series. And now that Lord Revolting's taken over Chickenfeet Academy, he's ordered the burning of any book that could definitely lead to his total downfall."

"That fiend!" Henry scowled. He glanced at Horrendous. "Have you read it by now?"

Horrendous shook her head miserably. "The pages are blank!"

"Great!" Really said. "We don't need to do anything!" He glanced at Henry, who was still sulking over his gift. All the crates of paper looked like homework.

"No, I'm sure there's a code," Horrendous said. "Or a spell. I just have to work it out."

"Still not finished?" Henry asked.

"You know, you could try breaking this code yourself," Horrendous said.

A chorus of screams burst through the church. Er, worship center.

"The fans don't seem to like that idea," Henry said.

"No, look!" Horrendous pointed. Really Wimpy took one glance and dived under a pew.

Pirates, battle droids, orcs, cultists, maniacs, mime artists, telemarketers, the Sicilian Mafia, and the Spanish Inquisition were thundering up the aisle. Sniffly Snort, the Tooth Fairy, and others of Revolting's henchmonsters trailed close behind. Behind them, a few ushers started rolling the red carpet back up. "Busy day for weddings," Henry said.

"Run, you idiot!" Horrendous screamed. "They've all come to kill you!" Clutching Defeating Lord Revolting for Lamebrains, she grabbed Really Wimpy by the collar and bolted for the emergency exit the clergyperson had shown her before the ceremony.

Henry Potty glanced at the route to safety behind him, where his two best friends in the world had fled. Before him, past a flimsy barrier of fan mail, swarmed flunkies, goons, and henchmen from a dozen bad movies and two good ones. His choice was clear. Besides, Skinny was watching. He vaulted over the boxes and drew his wand. "I regret I have but one life to give for no particular reason! It's clobbering time!"

Behind him, the guests snatched up anything at hand: wands, submachine guns, and the inevitable custard pies.

"Pow, pow, pow," shouted a battle droid whose weapon wasn't working.

"Oh dear, oh dear, oh my goodness me," moaned another, until the Blob took pity on him and engulfed him. Clearly he wasn't suited for combat, or to be more than the sad sack of comic relief. Having finished snacking on him, the Blob stretched out an oozing tentacle and engulfed the droid's Uzi.

An army of orcs raised arms in the air and howled loudly. Many guests covered their ears. Others preferred shielding their noses. Mrs. Barkin the Banshee screamed at all the orcs about how they were ruining such a nice wedding--what was wrong with them, did they know how long she'd spent doing her hair! And now no one was eating her spinach dip--how could the orcs manage to sleep at night? Before she had finished, the orcs were all cowering under the piano, curly tails straightening in fear. Meanwhile, her husband, the Dogman, savaged telemarketers left and right until he was distracted by a fire hydrant.

The Phantom of the Cesspit sang a long, tragic song about how he was cut off from the world of sunlight and laughter and Mariachi bands. "Quiet, you!" the Tooth Fairy cried. In a poof of pink gauze, she shoved him into a potted fern. The plant burped happily. No longer upstaged, the fairy zapped left and right, inflicting gingivitis wherever she flew. At last, Noodle Loudbottom managed to chase her off with a flyswatter.

"Arr!" a pirate snarled at an innocent leprechaun.

"You can't have my lucky charms!" the tiny man screamed as he vanished in a puff of cereal.

Henry flung squelchy pies at the pirates, one of whom dropped to the ground. "My eye! My eye!" he screamed. Henry didn't see an eye anywhere, but he did see an ugly wooden marble, green with mold. He pocketed it to leave in Really Wimpy's soup later. Determinedly, he continued hurling pies, since for once in his life, starting a food fight was the heroic, noble thing to do. Creamy vanilla scents rose to cover the pirates' aroma of leftover fishsticks.

Grave robbers with grave expressions encircled the waitresses slicing the cake, demanding slices with the corner roses. One slipped and fell into the middle of the cake, to emerge spitting candles and dripping with frosting. The comic laws of the universe ensure this happens in every battle.

Above, the Wicked Witch of the West circled, cackling and shrieking and writing obscene messages with acrid red smoke, thus damaging the local environment for weeks to come.

A parapsychologist burst in. "Wizards! Elves! Telemarketers! They do exist!" He was run over by a monster truck he hadn't believed in before that day.

Despite the many fearsome foes, our heroes were slowly winning the day. Though the cream pies were running out, stuffed tomatoes soared to new heights that day, followed rapidly by new lows. A group of high school cheerleaders raced after Dracula and his minions. Their war cry of "You're, like, totally slain, dudes" echoed triumphantly through the hall.

Across the room, other attacks were significantly less devastating: The Polish Mafia stood around, smoking giant sausages and trying to look cool. The Spanish Inquisition, having cornered a little old lady, were pelting her furiously with comfy cushions. Sniffly Snort (clearly electing to stay safe) reclined in an upholstered chair. As the battle raged, he poured himself a glass of champagne and nibbled an orange-glazed canap. Meanwhile, the cultists eagerly worshipped the ceramic figures on the smashed cake, while the Goths spied the band and ran over for autographs. Many of the bad guys, dripping with a mlange of tomato sauce and whipped topping, began to slink away. The Mafia goons, too dignified to slink, preferred to sidle.

Higgle the Chickenfeet caretaker arrived to discover he was just in time for the party. He mistook the Blob for lime jello and ate him.

Mr. Hide hid.

"I vant to suck your blooood!" howled Dracula.

"I'm not your type," Skinny yelled. She swung a teriyaki steak hard at the vampire and struck him through the heart, slaying him instantly.

A mafia stooge ran to the mummy to have his booboos kissed and made better.

An entire crew of scurvy pirates raced forward, only to find that cutlasses are little use against guns and wands. Some fell back, while others fell down. Then Horrendous and Really charged into the fight, bodily picked up Henry, and carried him off.

Chapter 3:

The League of Extraordinarily Green Things

We have to go back there!" Henry said. "I haven't finished smiting yet!" He looked around. His friends had dragged him into Wizney Burger (So little meat they're magical). Now all three sat huddled around a table, comforted in the knowledge that Lord Revolting and his minions had recently purchased, and thus, seldom left the bathrooms of, a competing franchise (DimBurgers--so good you'll die for them. So far, there had only been limited fatalities).

"No, we mustn't," Really Wimpy whimpered. "They'll be far safer if we escape and leave them to face the vicious monsters." The other two blinked. "We should hide, instead. The enemy has eyes everywhere." A pile of eyeballs fell off a ceiling fan and squished on Really's Wizney Super Fun Fish Sandwich. He shoved it away in disgust.

"All right," Horrendous said. The odor of fried grease was oddly soothing, as it contained enough sedatives to make customers forget what they were eating. "First we need a plan of attack. Then we can pool all our resources."

Henry and Really Wimpy exchanged glances. "Here's my credit card," Henry volunteered. There was less on it than the cost of his Triple Wizneyburger.

Really picked at his sandwich. He had only his teddy bat and wasn't about to share it.

"I have a year's supply of canned goods, all the disguise-o potion left over from the first six books, a .01 parts per million cleanroom, traveler's checks, and the entire Chickenfeet library including the books Lord Revolting burned last week."

The boys exchanged glances, wondering who would ask first. "In there?" Henry said at last, tentatively gesturing toward her fluffy dress.

"Of course not. My aunt's motorhome is parked around the corner. It'll come when I call it." She fidgeted under their gazes. "Well, someone had to be prepared." They kept staring. "Look, is it really so hard to believe that I predicted this attack down to the millisecond, stole all your belongings, and trained the motorhome to come on command? I am the great-granddaughter of Nostradamus! There were ominous portents! Ominous, I tell you!"

"Like what?"

Horrendous's glare turned into something Norman Webster would probably photograph, and paste under the word "hostile" in his dictionary. "This morning I got up on the wrong side of the bed, broke eight mirrors, heard thirteen crows caw while a black cat pooped in my boot, walked under a ladder, and ate a bowl of stewed prunes."

"Prunes?"

"Oh they're unlucky, believe me." Horrendous massaged her stomach. "Particularly at the moment."

"So you didn't predict it using that fax that arrived this morning from the Ministry of Muckups?" Really Wimpy asked helpfully.

Horrendous's pained expression made any leftover stewed prunes cower in their kettle. She quickly handed something to Henry. "Here. I scanned your fan mail onto disk and burned a CD."

He blinked. "In the five seconds since we ran out of there?" Henry supposed it was as plausible as everything else.

"Three actually. I also grabbed the ruined cake." She blushed. "And ate it. It's been a stressful day." She glanced at her limp salad, decorated with a pale sliver of tomato and a blob of gloppy dressing. "And things aren't looking too hopeful."

***

On the other other side of wherever it was before...oh, forget it.

Lord Revolting presided once again over his Funhouse of Terror. He had suitably punished his minions for yet another failure, making them all wear clothes from the previous season. Now they were watching as he and Snort played chess.

Wormsnail tugged at his sleeve. "Master, master. I've spotted his strategy! Every time you move a piece, he moves one too."

Lord Revolting eyed Snort and smiled. Time to watch evil's poster boy squirm. "Oh, Snort?"

"Yes, Your Unwashedness?" Without missing a beat, Snort's pawn leapt across the board and captured one of Revolting's bishops.

Tarnation, the man was skilled! (Lord Revolting had received a few calls from concerned parents who objected to careless words. Henry's and Really's double entendres about wandwork were still sneaking past the censors, but their days were numbered.) Revolting would need to move carefully. He scooted a knight one square forward. "Once again you've failed to capture the boy."

"The thought occurs that you might have helped out, had you been so inclined." Snort moved a rook.

"I was helping from the sidelines," Revolting snarled. "But my wand gave up entirely and changed into a balloon animal!" He glared upwards. "Something won't let me kill that Potty boy! I've been trying for seven books now!" He snatched up his knight and moved it straight into the path of slaughter. His glower suggested he longed for Snort to suffer a similar fate.

"So you say," Snort said sweetly.

Revolting glared at him and Snort looked away. "At the same time, my minions report that at the Battle of Us Getting Totally Creamed, you were seen eating a canap. And drinking tea?"

"Champagne, actually." Professor Snort moved the rook again, ignoring the sacrificial knight. "While your minions and monsters were laying down their lives in your glorious cause, I suddenly found myself thinking: what is it the good guys have and we don't? Then it struck me--culture. They know which fork to use with which wine. They're always invited to parties. Whereas we--" Professor Snort glanced from the Phantom, who was gnawing on a discarded fishbone to the Mummy, who was running low on rotting bandages and trying to patch the holes with toilet paper. Mr. Hide gibbered under the table. "Well, we lack a few social graces."

"Like running water," the Wicked Witch of the West chimed in.

"And glitter." This was the Tooth Fairy. She was new to ambiance, but had plenty of experience with culture, specifically that of elementary-schoolers. Her "Bubblegum Mist" cologne, currently clouding her fellow minions' lungs with sweltering sweetness, was its own lethal weapon.

"And opera tickets."

"We've never even seen The Godfather."

"Silence," Revolting screamed, high enough to shatter everything in the Tooth Fairy's purse. He smoldered at Professor Snort. "Very well. You're permitted to sit out of battles and sample hors d'oeuvres until further notice. But bring back enough for all of us."

"Just as I intended." Snort moved a chess piece, and no one noticed it was the second he'd moved in a row.

***

The motorhome was quite spacious, at least if you happened to be mice. For humans, the bed-slash-shelf, oven-slash-cupboard-slash-elf storage, and toilet-slash-washing machine offered a particular lack of charm. In fact, the entire bathroom was just a plastic curtain-and-drain affair, necessitating two teens to sit around humming loudly when one wanted to use it. Horrendous claimed the only bed, a cozy, purple-draped alcove over the cab. This left Henry to curl up in the small vacuum cupboard (where he felt most at home) and Really to manage with the gap under the table-slash-emergency mortuary. The remaining floor space bowed under stacks of books, clothes, and canned goods. Still, there was an element of mystery to the place, as Really quickly discovered.

"Wow, look," he cried. "A magic wardrobe!"

"Great, we have magic coats." Horrendous clambered up to the cab.

Safely in the motorhome, Henry pulled down the blinds, including the mini-curtain that covered the peephole. He threw a sheet over the landscape painting for good measure.

Horrendous looked back questioningly from the driver's seat. "Where to?"

"Somewhere safe. Somewhere none of those bad guys will find us. Especially Professor Snort," Really said, sniffling. Horrendous had forgotten his feetie pajamas.

"How about the house where the Order of the Takeout met in secret and plotted Lord Revolting's downfall?" Henry offered.

"Snort was a member of the Order," Horrendous said.

"Yes, but Horrendous, it was a secret club," Henry explained patiently. "The whole point is not to tell people. Especially your boss. Let's go."

Muttering about some people's complete lunacy, Horrendous waved her wand and the motorhome obediently sped into the night.

***

At last, they arrived at Number Twelve Inyerface. A horde of henchmen were patrolling the street, but Horrendous shouted, "Look, a sale on jackboots," and they all ran in the other direction. Thus unobstructed, they crept up on the modest twelve-story mansion.

Henry jiggled all the locks. Nothing.

"Got it," Horrendous called, crouching behind the bushes. She sprang up, clutching a fat key-shaped box in both hands. Henry snatched it and tore it open to reveal a fist-sized rock. He used it to smash the closest window and flung himself inside, rolling about on the broken glass as he looked for evil henchmen. Nothing. Only empty rooms and the lingering scent of mouse droppings. Henry stood, shook off the larger hunks of glass, and opened the door for his friends. "No one here. I checked out the area thoroughly."

"And by area you mean the living room?" Horrendous asked. Really Wimpy had gratefully responded to the implied safety of headquarters by hiding under the cobwebby couch. She glanced about. The once-stylish furniture was motheaten and covered in dusty drapes. Even the bowl of wax fruit on the end table looked withered. If the crash hadn't brought anyone, they were probably safe. "Well, we know the first thing to do!"

"Go find the Plot Devices?" Henry asked.

"No. Make tea." She raised her eyebrows at Henry's confusion. "Well, we are British."

"And I haven't eaten since before the wedding," Really piped in. "My Super Fun Fish Sandwich had half a frog in it."

They reached the kitchen, where Really Wimpy prepared a nourishing meal of bubble and squeak, fish and chips, and steak and kidney pudding. (His mother had spent a week training him in a spectrum of British culinary delights, all of which contained the same four overcooked vegetables.) The odor of cabbages permeated the room, thick enough to slice and eat by itself. As they sat, Horrendous began shoveling pounds of dust off the table and Henry began waxing nostalgic.

"Wow, it's the League of Extraordinarily Green Things' old headquarters, where lovable chartreuse characters gathered to scheme against Lord Revolting and his stooges at the Ministry of Muckups. There's Kumquat the Frog's banjo where he would sing about rainbows and dreams and happier times. There's the dent in the wall where Master Yada used his incredible powers to smash the banjo to pieces."

Really Wimpy gazed dewy-eyed at Horrendous. A warm cloud of nostalgia seemed to be taking over all of them. He glanced around for the source of the soppy theme music. "And there's the chair where Horrendous knitted pink and yellow straightjackets to catch elves. Too bad they were a rotten food supply."

Henry nodded, smile vacant. The League of Extraordinarily Green Things, cuddly puppet division of the famed Order of the Takeout, had accomplished much against Lord Revolting. Poster campaigns, for instance. "And that gecko who tried to sell everyone car insurance. Of course, the Grunch kept motioning to destroy Christmas, but we outvoted him every time. Remember how Sweat the Ogre--"

"Stop it!" Horrendous dropped her dust shovel and burst into tears. The soppy music sputtered and went out. "They're gone forever, now that Revolting's loose and they've joined the Bremen Town Musicians. We can't recreate the past or rebuild the Order. That was two whole books ago. It's over!"

Really, looking terrified, patted Horrendous's back. Henry sang a quick round of the Order's theme song, "It's No Vacuum Ride Being Green," but it didn't raise his friends' spirits. On the other hand, they did hide under a table when the windows began to shatter.

"It'll be okay, Horrendous," Really piped up after Henry piped down. "We still have each other."

"But you two couldn't find your backsides with both hands!" Her head dropped. "I'm all alone."

A crash echoed from the next room. Really Wimpy flung his fishsticks into the air, and abandoned the pan of frying chips in favor of cowering in the oven. "Are you a bad guy?" he asked, voice quavering.

"Really, what a dumb thing to ask. Horrendous is right about you." Henry raised his voice. "Are you a good guy in disguise?"

"For crying out loud," Horrendous groaned. "Who's there?"

"Jutht me, Mithtreth." A shambling figure shambled into the kitchen. "I wath in the bathment exthperimenting on raccoonth. Did you know they can thupport a current of twenty-eight megawath?"

Horrendous ducked as spittle flew in all directions. "Igor! The loyal family servant!" Behind her, Really Wimpy cautiously crept from the oven.

Igor nodded until his lumpy head nearly tumbled off his shoulders. The only thing bigger than his tangerinelike nose was his left ear, and the only things bigger than that were his houseboat-sized feet. Years of experimenting with hazardous chemicals had left him nearly hairless, with only sparse white tufts protecting his rather magnetized skull. Squat and green, he no longer served his master, Frankenstein, but had joined the Green League through their open door policy, before it had become a vacant house policy. He also lisped. "Yeth, Mithtreth." He beckoned them into the living room. Really Wimpy glanced at his chip pan, which was starting to smoke, and then abandoned it to run from the room. Igor gestured eagerly to seats, and watched, bemused, as the teens chose the ones with no broken glass. "The Green League ditholved. I've been waiting here for two yearth, polishing my thkullth. Thuch a tragic tale, really."

"Thukullth?" Henry asked worriedly.

"Yeth." Igor pounded a fist on his head, exuding a hollow clunk. "Thkull, thee?"

"Oh, skulls," Horrendous said. She hesitated. "You do mean other people's right? Dead people no longer using them?"

"Of courth. Grave robbing ith appropriate for one in my pothithon. And, Marthter Thereal liked to thpeak with them. He thought it wath like having friendth."

"Igor, we can't stay to talk," Henry said. "We have to find the seven Plot Devices before it's too late! Time's running out! Tension is high!"

"And the Order of the Takeout's dissolved like Really Wimpy's food under a barrage of soap!" Horrendous sobbed.

"And I couldn't find any parsnips!" Really whimpered.

"Not to worry. I have tholuthons!"

"You have what?" the teens chorused.

"Anthers. Retholuthons. That'th why I'm here, you thee. It'th a technique called Deus ex machina, where an outside character appearth and workth out all your problemth becauth you're thuch twitth. Regarding the Order of the Takeout, one member remainth at large... Have you forgotten Rover S. Barkin? The Dogman? For dinner, I have a nice liver jutht waiting." He saw their faces. "From a cow. And for the third item, Revolting'th thoul, I have one part right here."

"What!" Horrendous stared wordlessly at the evil ring encircling one of Igor's twelve fingers. It was slowly turning his hand brown. "Where--How--"

"Mine!" Henry said, leaping to the important part. He yanked it off Igor's hand, and winced as the finger came off with it.

"You've had it all this time?" Really asked. Maybe he could get halfsies.

"Oh yeth. `Igor, go hide the bodieth. Igor, thtop the torch-wielding mob. Igor, what'th an eight-letter word for terror?' But nobody athkth what'th in Igor'th thecret drawerth."

Horrendous shook that image away. "But how'd you get it?"

"Ah, now that is a long, and fascinating tale, filled with daring, valor, and...daring. Marthter Thereal took me on an outing to destroy Lord Revolting in revenge for not returning Marthter Thereal's thtereo. Unfortunately, Lord Revolting'th unkillable. Therefore, Marthter Thereal merely nicked Revolting'th thtuff."

Henry blinked. "Where's the valor?"

"Revolting had hidden the ring in hith laundry pile."

"Ah." Really Wimpy nodded sagely.

"Then that underhanded little thief Galling kept trying to theal it. But I got him exthpelled from the League. For conduct unbecoming a puppet."

"Wow." Horrendous stared reverently at the first Plot Device. "So no one took it or lost it or sold it to prolong the plot?"

Igor rolled his eyes at her, and then gestured for her to roll them back to him. "Don't be thilly. You thtill have plenty to do."

"Our quest is finished! Already!" Henry stood. "Which dramatic pose should I use? This?" Muscles flexed, head turned to the right. "Or this?" Muscles flexed, head turned to the left.

"Henry, we need all seven parts of Lord Revolting's soul. And we have to destroy them!"

"Right. And how many more will make seven?"

Horrendous rolled her eyes. "A much much better question is, how do we destroy it?"

"We could feed it Really's cooking," Henry suggested. The overflowing chip pan was taking on a life of its own. If knights had ever learned the recipe, no siege would have lasted beyond a single toss of boiling oil.

"How do we destroy the one ring?" Really Wimpy mused. "I think this calls for a magical quest!"

"Or you could read the inthructhons." While the others had been ignoring him, Igor had been busy, taking the teens' coats and using them to sweep the floor into the next day's stew. Then he'd cleaned the clocks. Some of the more picturesque lumps of dust and shattered glass were now framed. Now Igor retrieved his finger from Henry and began stitching it back in place.

Henry eyed the tarnished ring. It did indeed have some words carved on it in an unreadable ancient language. Probably French.

Horrendous glanced over his shoulder. "Oh, look, it's Esperanto. Haven't you read Impractical Languages? It says, `Insert finger here.'"

"No, on the inthide," Igor thuggethed. I mean, suggested.

"Okay." Horrendous cleared her throat. "It says: `Warning: May change eye color and result in multiple personality syndrome. While this ring is impervious to all sources of destruction, including heroic quests and eagle intervention, volcanoes may void its warranty.'"

"We should use that hint guide," Really said. "If we knew how to read it."

"I have a pair of color-change bifocalth," Igor offered. "They work in other taleth."

Horrendous retrieved Defeating Lord Revolting for Lamebrains from the convenient pocket of her wedding dress and opened it. "Wait, there's an inscription."

"Ooh, read it to us," said Henry, who was lazy.

"Dear Reader, You must choose your own adventure, as no one's going to do it for you. You know your mission. Find the Plot Devices or Lord Revolting will finally take over the world and live forever and murder all the innocent goldfish out there. You're the last hope. You're the child of prophecy. It all depends on you, Horrendous. You have to solve all the clues and let Henry take the credit, or the world's doomed. Good luck. PS: The hintline is open 24 hours a day at a rate of $29.95 for the first minute and $30.00 for each additional minute."

"We can't afford that!" Henry groaned. "Not unless we sell someone here for medical experiments!" He suddenly looked quiet and furtive, as if he'd had an epiphany.

Horrendous flipped mindlessly through the blank pages, and paused. Sprouting like shitake mushrooms, words were appearing on the page: See Spot run. Run Spot run. Run home, Spot.

"What does it mean?" Henry asked.

"Hmm. We need a master of cryptology. The man who wrote the Messy Map and actually got Henry to learn part of his textbook."

"Cool, let's call him," Really said. He picked up his cellphone and dialed. As he pressed the final digit, the Dogman poofed into the living room.

Horrendous blinked. "How'd you get here so fast?"

"Pager." The Dogman realized he was panting in eagerness and quickly retracted his tongue. "And I just happened to be in the area. Running errands. It's not as if I've been sitting by the phone or loitering outside since the wedding, waiting for my next scene. I mean, I have hobbies, I do--"

"Okay," Henry said skeptically. "Can you translate this code for us?" He handed over the book.

Really Wimpy moved closer. "Hey, want some dinner?"

"Sure, I'm starving." The Dogman eyed the kitchen. A scent rather like fried wet cat was oozing from the chip pan. "Y'know, never mind." He hesitated. "Are you guys actually eating meals from a self-taught chef with the mind of a toddler?"

Horrendous shrugged. "What with this series of unfortunate events we're finding ourselves in, it seemed appropriate."

Resolutely turning his back on the chip pan before he followed his first impulse and buried it, the Dogman returned to the code. Using his wand, he lifted the words up off the page and rearranged the letters so they read "Activate Cheat Code."

Horrendous glared. "Those words don't unscramble to `Activate Cheat Code.' If they did, I could've worked it out myself."

The Dogman smiled. "Only teachers get to bend the rules like this. I've used these guides before."

"How does it work?" Henry asked.

"You just read the book to the end, and there's your answer, just waiting. Cheat codes are amazing, really."

"Who, me?" Really asked.

"No. Just really. They can even change the environment around you to better suit your needs."

"Like increasing my bank account?" Henry asked.

"Sure." Rover sighed. "Pity it doesn't last very long or my wife wouldn't have kicked me out."

"What happened?" Henry asked, trying to sound sympathetic. He still hadn't gotten his birthday present.

"Well, what with my having canine hearing and her being a banshee, we're just not getting along that well. And when I go out for a steak with the guys, I get home to find she's hidden all my squeaky toys, doggone it."

Henry shook his head. "Rough."

"Tell me about it. My life's been one very long, very tragic story, from becoming a Dogman to marrying the old muzzle-and-leash. Heck, I was bullied even before I was bitten, since my parents nicknamed me `the Dogman.'"

Horrendous's eyes narrowed. "You mean that was your name before you became--"

"Well," Rover said hastily. "Maybe we can hang out for a while, play ball and stuff. I can control my slobber most of the time. And we can have fun, right? Right guys? Huh? Huh?"

The teens exchanged perfectly understood glances. No one would be sharing a motorhome with the Dogman or his fleas.

"Your wife loves you and needs you," Horrendous said gently. "We don't. Now scram, okay?"

Rover took up the mournful howl of all canines left behind.

"Rover, I'll give you something to howl about." Henry raised a vicious-looking squirt bottle, and the Dogman fled.

***

A short time later, Horrendous cleared her throat delicately. "Henry, maybe you were a bit mean?"

"What, because I called the Pound on him?" He shrugged. "Rover's tough. He'll get over it." Henry sighed nostalgically, and the syrupy music drifted back. There on the wall was a photo of his parents and their friends, The Order of the Takeout Mark One. Bumbling Bore, Lames and Jelly Potty, and Cereals Back had big crosses of red ink over them. Rover and the treacherous Wormsnail were both still alive, but a red marker waited conveniently on a string. The photo was labeled Henry Potty's Mentors.

Beside it hung a Magic Mirror, a convenient invention for those who wanted to watch other wizards do private activities, especially those of an illegal or adult nature, preferably both. It had formerly been under Really Wimpy's bed (placed there, in all likelihood by his mischievous twin brothers, who liked to practice ghost noises at night). In a fit of terror, Really had hung it in the kitchen where he could keep an eye on it during top-secret planning sessions. Shortly after, Revolting had mysteriously discovered Cereals Back's location and had him killed, and the Order abandoned their secret meeting place.

"We don't have time for two whole paragraphs of nostalgia," Horrendous said. "Revolting's goons have probably traced Really's cellphone call by now." She punched him. "I told you ordering a pizza would be pushing our luck."

"If you thtay, I could thtill therve you," Igor said. "Exthpertly."

"Well fascinating as the idea is," Horrendous said, hastily wiping off her glasses with a handkerchief, and when it was soaked through, groping for a sponge. "I think we should be going..."

"But Lord Revolting could get us if we go out there!" Really Wimpy whimpered.

"Compared with the threat of drowning, it's probably worth the risk."

Henry eyed Igor, who gave him a hopeful, toothless smile. (A few rotten stumps remained all alone; Igor didn't believe in dental hygiene.) Igor lifted a wax apple from the end table with the sly confidence of one used to picking pockets. He rubbed it briskly under his arm to polish it and extended the treat toward Henry. "Igorth take good care of their marthters."

Henry ran for the door. "The quest waits for no man!"

***

Safely down the driveway and out of sight of Number Twelve Inyerface, they all piled into the motorhome and realized that no one knew their destination. Worse, yet, no one knew how to drive, though Horrendous had read a few books of theory and Henry had once seen a movie that taught him cars have feelings too. He patted the seat cushion beside him, just in case.

"Wait!" Horrendous said. Snatching a raincoat as a precaution, she ran back into the house and returned a moment later. She lifted the giant Magic Mirror and hung it up on the motorhome wall. "There. Now I've put this where no one will find it! If Revolting looks through, all he'll be able to see is us!"

Really scratched his head. "Isn't the whole point--?"

"I think it adds some much-needed spice to the trip," Henry said. "And speaking of that, why all the canned goods?"

Horrendous rolled her eyes.

"No, I mean, it's not much of an adventure this way. We need some desperation and starvation. Some suffering."

"We could let Really cook."

"Hey! For that, I'm throwing out the table-slash-emergency mortuary. It gives me the creeps."

Henry shrugged. "Let's start by dumping the food by the side of the road. We can live off the land, eating wild greens and insects. It'll be more of an adventure, like how the real pros do it."

"Real pros without supermarkets or forward planning," Horrendous muttered.

"Well, then, we could throw away those triple B maps you brought. Or drink water we haven't boiled. Or try to build a reflector oven out of tinfoil."

The pair firmly shot his ideas, and nearly him, down.

"Well, could we at least wear the evil ring, to wear us down and give us some extra misery?"

Really and Horrendous exchanged glances and agreed to the compromise.

Horrendous curled up on her curtained bed. "Well, now that we're set up, I'll ask the cheat guide what we should be doing. After all, we don't want to spend the whole book sitting around and camping in the forest." She opened the codebook. After reading to the end, she set it down and groaned.

Directions for saving the world:

Destroy the Plot Devices.

That should do it.

You have two remaining cheat codes. After that, it's coming out of your experience points.

She read the instructions aloud.

Really winced. "That's as useless as I am!"

A knock sounded on the motorhome door. "Don't get it," Horrendous hissed. "We need to stay inconspicuous."

"We're safe." Henry gestured at the landscape painting. "Just look outside--no one's moving."

"But even the walls have ears." She pointed at the curtained picture window. A large, flabby ear poked out on either side.

"Hello? I'm selling Turkish Delight door to door?" The woman's silhouette had a very tall, spiky crown. "It's a little addictive but worth it, I guarantee." Silence. "Well, I'll stick a flyer under the door. Winter's coming." They all held their breaths as she did so. "Bye now."

"Can you tell me the way to Oxford?" a much younger voice called a few minutes later. "I must consult a scholar there. He has my cookie order form."

"Mushrooms?" This outline showed a fluffy dress and bow. "The caterpillar hasn't even sat on them much."

"Excuse me? We're poor, lost circus performers? And, um, we're selling calendars."

"Oh no!" Horrendous breathed. "It's school fundraiser week."

It was indeed, but the teens stayed quiet and the stream of visitors finally diminished, leaving only the tattered remains of a lemonade stand on the motorhome's porch.

Horrendous paced nervously. "We can't stay here."

Henry gazed across the pale surface of the page to the thick section of book in the reader's right hand. "No. There's a long way to go yet."

He hopped onto the driver's seat and prepared to pull out. As he turned to ask his comrades if driver's ed was really necessary, a hissing, spitting thing landed on the dashboard, spitting and hissing.

"An evil teakettle!" Horrendous shrieked.

"Quick, turn off the engine," Really Wimpy said. But it was too late. The teakettle, hot enough to boil, sprayed steam all over the windshield, blinding Henry and all who rode with him.

"Outside," Really sobbed, and they all hurried out, where the teakettle flew at them with renewed fury.

"Cast a spell! Cast a spell!"

"I don't know any spells! Magic's your job, Horrendous." But Henry did know one incantation, a jingle of such evil he doubted any appliance could withstand it. Nor could humans, but that was incidental. He waved his wand with a flourish. "Send in the clowns!"

Nothing happened.

"Use wizard language," Horrendous urged.

"Right. Send in the clowns-ium!"

A tiny fire engine pulled up beside them, and forty-three clowns clambered from its cramped interior. They sprayed the teakettle with fire extinguishers and buckets of exploding confetti. Though the teakettle produced a cloud of deadly mist, the clowns valiantly beat it to death at last with a ten-foot ladder.

The kettle offered a last squeal of defiance, and tumbled to the ground, the light fading from its underside.

"Perfect," Horrendous said. "Now how do we get rid of the clowns?"

"I think you have to tent the place," Really said.

Since the clowns had already unpacked all their giant pants and ele-pants (which were stored in the trunk), the teens hastily drove away, though not before accepting arcane gifts to help them on their quest.

End of Free Sample

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Copyright © 2008 by Valerie Estelle Frankel . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.


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