Authors: Jonathan Stroud
Also by Jonathan Stroud
The Bartimaeus Books
The Amulet of Samarkand
The Ring of Solomon
The Amulet of Samarkand Graphic Novel
The Last Siege
Heroes of the Valley
About the Endnotes
Bartimaeus is famous for making snarky asides and boastful claims, which you can find in this book’s endnotes. To access his comments as you are reading the story, click on the highlighted superscript number and the page will turn to the corresponding note. To return to where you were reading, click on the same number in the endnotes section. This feature works on most devices.
Copyright © 2004 by Jonathan Stroud
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion Books for Children, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.
The Main Characters
|Mr. Rupert Devereaux||Prime Minister of Great Britain and the Empire|
|Mr. Carl Mortensen||Home Secretary|
|Ms. Jessica Whitwell||Security Minister|
|Mr. Henry Duvall||Chief of Police|
|Mr. Marmaduke Fry||Foreign Secretary|
|Ms. Helen Malbindi||Information Minister|
|Mr. Julius Tallow||Head of Internal Affairs|
|Mr. John Mandrake||Assistant to the Head of Internal Affairs|
|Mr. George Ffoukes||Magician Fourth Level;|
Department of Internal Affairs
|Ms. Jane Farrar||Assistant to the Chief of Police|
|Mr. Sholto Pinn||A merchant; proprietor of|
Pinn’s Accoutrements of Piccadilly
|Mr. Quentin Makepeace||A playwright; author of|
Swans of Araby
and other works
And various other magicians, policemen, and spies
Mr. T. E. Pennyfeather
And other members of the Resistance
|Bartimaeus||A djinni—in service to Mr. Mandrake|
|Queezle||A djinni—in service to Mr. Ffoukes|
|Shubit||A djinni—in service to Ms. Whitwell|
|Nemaides||A djinni—in service to Mr. Tallow|
|Simpkin||A foliot—in service to Mr. Pinn|
And numerous other afrits, djinn, foliots, and imps
t dusk, the enemy lit their campfires one by one, in greater profusion than on any night before. The lights sparkled like fiery jewels out in the grayness of the plains, so numerous it seemed an enchanted city had sprung up from the earth. By contrast, within our walls the houses had their shutters closed, their lights blacked out. A strange reversal had taken place—Prague itself was dark and dead, while the countryside around it flared with life.
Soon afterward, the wind began to drop. It had been blowing strongly from the west for hours, carrying word of the invaders’ movements—the rattling of the siege engines, the calling of the troops and animals, the sighing of the captive spirits, the odors of the incantations. Now, with unnatural speed, it died away and the air was steeped in silence.
I was floating high above the Strahov Monastery, just inside the magnificent city walls I’d built three hundred years before. My leathery wings moved in strong, slow beats; my eyes scanned the seven planes to the horizon.
It did not make for happy viewing. The mass of the British army was cloaked behind Concealments, but its ripples of power already lapped at the base of Castle Hill. The auras of a vast contingent of spirits were dimly visible in the gloom; with every minute further brief trembles on the planes signaled the arrival of new battalions. Groups of human soldiers moved purposefully over the dark ground. In their midst stood a cluster of great white tents, domed like rocs’eggs, about which Shields and other spells hung cobweb-thick.
I raised my gaze to the darkened sky. It was an angry black mess of clouds, smeared with streaks of yellow to the west. At a high altitude and scarcely visible in the dying light, I spied six faint dots circling well out of Detonation range. They progressed steadily widdershins, mapping out the walls a final time, checking the strength of our defenses.
Speaking of which … I had to do the same.
At Strahov Gate, farthest flung and most vulnerable outpost of the walls, the tower had been raised and strengthened. The ancient doors were sealed with triple hexes and a wealth of trigger mechanisms, and the lowering battlements at the crest of the tower bristled with watchful sentries.
That at least was the idea.
To the tower I flew, hawk-headed, leather-winged, hidden behind my shroud of wisps. I alighted barefoot, without a sound, on a prominent crest of stone. I waited for the swift, sharp challenge, the vigorous display of instant readiness.
Nothing happened. I dropped my Concealment and waited for some moderate, belated evidence of alertness. I coughed loudly. Still no joy.
A glimmering Shield protected part of the battlements, and behind this crouched five sentries.
The Shield was a narrow affair, designed for one human soldier or three djinn at most. As such, there was a good deal of fidgeting going on.
“Ow! Mind those claws, you idiot!”
“Just shove over. I tell you, my backside’s in plain view now. They might spot it.”
“That could win us the battle on its own.”
“Keep that wing under control! You nearly had my eye out.”
“Change into something smaller, then. I suggest a nematode worm.”
“If you elbow me one more time …”
fault. It’s that Bartimaeus who put us here. He’s such a pomp—”
It was a painful display of laxity and incompetence, in short, and I refrain from recording it in full. The hawk-headed warrior folded its wings, stepped forward, and roused the sentries’ attention by banging their heads together smartly.
“And what kind of sentry duty do you call
I snapped. I was in no mood to mess about here; six months of continual service had worn my essence thin. “Cowering behind a Shield, bickering like fishwives … I ordered you to
Amid the pathetic mumbling and shuffling and staring at feet that followed, the frog put up its hand.
“Please, Mr. Bartimaeus, sir,” it said, “what’s the good of watching? The British are everywhere—sky
land. And we’ve heard they’ve got a whole cohort of afrits down there. Is that true?”
I pointed my beak at the horizon, narrow-eyed. “Maybe.”
The frog gave a moan. “But we ain’t got a single one, have we? Not since Phoebus bought it. And there’s marids down there, too, we’ve heard, more than one.
the leader’s got this Staff—real powerful, it is. Tore up Paris and Cologne on the way here, they say. Is
My crest feathers ruffled gently in the breeze. “Maybe.”
The frog gave a yelp. “Ohh, but that’s just dreadful, ain’t it? We’ve no hope now. All afternoon the summonings have been coming thick and fast, and that means only one thing. They’ll attack tonight. We’ll all be dead by morning.”
Well, he wasn’t going to do our morale much good with that kind of talk.
I put a hand on his warty shoulder. “Listen, son … what’s your name?”
“Nubbin. Well, don’t go believing everything you hear, Nubbin. The British army’s strong, sure. In fact, I’ve rarely seen stronger. But let’s say it is. Let’s say it’s got marids, whole legions of afrits, and horlas by the bucket-load. Let’s say they’re all going to come pouring at us tonight, right here at the Strahov Gate. Well, let them come. We’ve got tricks to send them packing.”
“Such as what, sir?”
“Tricks that’ll blow those afrits and marids right out of the air. Tricks we’ve all learned in the heat of a dozen battles. Tricks that mean one sweet word:
The frog’s bulbous eyes blinked at me. “This is my first battle, sir.”
I made an impatient gesture. “Failing that, the Emperor’s djinn say his magicians are working on something or other. A last line of defense. Some hare-brained scheme, no doubt.” I patted his shoulder in a manly way. “Feel better now, son?”
“No, sir. I feel worse.”
Fair enough. I was never much cop at those pep talks. “All right,” I growled. “My advice is to duck fast and when possible run away. With luck, your masters will get killed before you are. Personally, that’s what
I hope this rousing speech did them some good, for it was at that moment that the attack came. Far off, there was a reverberation on all seven planes. We all felt it: it was a single note of imperious command. I spun around to look out into the dark, and one by one, the five sentries’ heads popped up above the battlements.
Out on the plains, the great army surged into action.
At their head, soaring on the updrafts of a sudden ferocious wind, came the djinn, armored in red and white, carrying slender pikes with silver tips. Their wings hummed; their screams made the tower shake. Below, on foot, a ghostly multitude: the horlas with their carved bone tridents, skipping into the huts and houses outside the walls in search of prey.
Beside them, vague shadows flitted, ghuls and fetches, wraiths of cold and misery, insubstantial on every plane. And then, with a great chattering and champing of jaws, a thousand imps and foliots rose from the earth like a dust storm or a monstrous swarm of bees. All these and many others came a-hurrying toward the Strahov Gate.
The frog tapped my elbow. “Good job you had a word with us, sir,” he said. “I’m overwhelmingly confident now, thanks to you.”
I scarcely heard him. I was staring far off beyond the terrible host, to a low rise near the domed white tents. A man was standing on it, holding up a stick or a staff. He was too remote for me to take in many details, but I could sense his power all right. His aura lit up the hill about him. As I watched, several lightning bolts speared from the boiling clouds, impaling themselves upon the tip of the outstretched staff. The hill, the tents, the waiting soldiers, were briefly lit, as if by day. The light went out, the energy absorbed into the staff. Thunder rolled about the beleaguered city.
him, is it?” I muttered. “The famous Gladstone.”
The djinn were nearing the walls now, passing over waste ground and the wrecks of newly dismantled buildings. As they did so, a buried hex was triggered; jets of blue-green fire erupted upward, incinerating the leaders where they flew. But the fire died back, and the rest came on.
This was the trigger for the defenders to act: a hundred imps and foliots rose from the walls, uttering tinny cries and sending Detonations toward the flying horde. The invaders replied in kind. Infernos and Fluxes met and mingled in the half dark; shadows looped and spun against the flares of light. Beyond, Prague’s fringes were aflame; the first of the horlas thronged below us, trying to snap the sturdy Binding spells that I’d used to secure the walls’ foundations.
I unfurled my wings, ready to enter the fray; at my side, the frog swelled out its throat and uttered a defiant croak. The next instant a looping bolt of energy stabbed from the magician’s staff far off on the hill, arced through the sky and smashed into the Strahov Gate tower, just below the battlements. Our Shield was ruptured like tissue paper. Mortar and stone shattered, the roof of the tower gave way. I was blown spinning into the air—and fell, almost to earth, colliding heavily with a cartload of hay bales that had been drawn inside the gates before the siege began. Above me, the wooden structure of the tower was on fire. I could not see any of the sentries. Imps and djinn milled about confusedly in the sky above, exchanging bursts of magic. Bodies dropped from the sky, igniting roofs. From nearby houses, women and children ran screaming. The Strahov Gate shook with the scratching of the horlas’ tridents. It would not hold for long.
The defenders needed my help. I extricated myself from the hay with my usual haste.
“When you’ve picked the last bit of straw from your loincloth, Bartimaeus,” a voice said, “you’re wanted up at the castle.”
The hawk-headed warrior glanced up. “Oh—hullo, Queezle.”
An elegant she-leopard was sitting in the middle of the street, staring at me with lime-green eyes. As I watched, she negligently rose, walked a few paces to the side, sat down again. A gout of burning pitch slammed into the cobblestones where she’d been, leaving a smoldering crater. “Bit busy,” she remarked.
“Yes. We’re done for here.” I jumped down from the cart.
“Looks like the Binding spells in the walls are breaking,” the leopard said, glancing at the trembling gate. “There’s shoddy workmanship for you. Wonder which djinni built that?”
“Can’t think,” I said. “So, then—our master calls?”
The leopard nodded. “Better hurry, or he’ll stipple us. Let’s go on foot. Sky’s too crowded.”
“Lead on.” I changed, became a panther, black as midnight. We ran up through the narrow streets toward Hrad
any Square. The roads we took were empty; we avoided the places where the panic-stricken people surged like livestock. More and more buildings were burning now, gables collapsing, side walls falling in. Around the roofs small imps were dancing, waving embers in their hands.
At the castle, imperial servants stood in the square under flickering lanterns, gathering random pieces of furniture into carts; beside them ostlers were struggling to tether horses to the struts. The sky above the city was peppered with bursts of colored light; behind, back toward Strahov and the monastery, came the dull thump of explosions. We slipped through the main entrance unopposed.