Tashi is bold and clever, and tells the best stories ever! In this collection, he tells tales of courage and daring, and each story features a beautiful color illustration. There's a Magnificent Magician with a greedy plan, a haunted house about to go up in flames, ruthless ruffians after a rare orchid, and a quest for the bravest person in the land to face the fire-breathing Red Whiskered Dragon.
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Tashi and the Wicked Magician and Other Stories
By Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg, Geoff Kelly
Allen & UnwinCopyright © 2014 Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg
All rights reserved.
Tashi and the Wicked Magician
'Hey, Tashi,' called Jack. 'Wait!'
Tashi stopped, and turned.
Jack was panting when he caught up. 'Ask me for five dollars.'
'I don't need any money, thanks,' Tashi patted his bag. 'I've brought my lunch today. And we'd better hurry – we'll be late for school.' He looked at Jack's eyebrows still waggling mysteriously. 'Oh, I see ... Jack, could you lend me five dollars?'
'Sure,' said Jack, and he whipped out a shiny black wallet from his back pocket.
Tashi put out his hand to feel the leather, just as Jack opened it. 'Wah!' Tall bright flames shot up, making Tashi snatch back his hand.
Quick as a slap, Jack snapped the wallet closed, snuffing out the flames. It lay there in his palm, quiet.
Tashi took it carefully, and sniffed it.
Jack grinned. 'Have a look inside. But open it slowly.'
Tashi peered in, and scratched his head.
'Magic, hey? Look closer – there's a secret metal pocket, and when you snap it open, it triggers a spark. Isn't it mad? Uncle Joe gave it to me.'
'Where did he get it?'
'India. And he saw a magician do a trick with a rope that uncoils by itself and stretches straight up into the sky. Totally mysterious.'
As the boys entered the playground, the bell rang.
'Magic is very fascinating but it can also be very dangerous,' said Tashi.
'The Ancient Egyptians believed in magic,' said Angus Figment, following them into class. 'When babies were sick, their mothers were told to eat a mouse for good luck and put the bones in a bag to hang around the baby's neck.'
'Erk,' said Jack. 'So, have you ever met a magician, Tashi?'
Tashi nodded slowly. 'I've met a few in my time. Most were clever, good men. But one ...' Tashi shuddered and looked away.
'One?' said Jack and Angus.
'Later,' said Tashi, pointing to Ms Hall, who'd just started the lesson.
At recess, the boys sat on the bench under the peppercorn tree. 'So,' said Jack, 'tell us about the One.'
Tashi opened his egg noodles, then leaned back and closed his eyes, remembering. 'Well,' he sighed, 'it was like this. One morning when I was down in the village square, I saw a crowd of people gathered in front of the posters on the wall where we read the news.'
'What, like a big internet screen?' said Angus.
Tashi looked puzzled. 'No, like newspapers. Each week the papers are stuck up on the wall for everyone to read. In my village, not everyone can buy a newspaper! But I could see it wasn't the news that was causing such an excited buzz that day.'
'Well, what?' asked Angus.
'There were too many people blocking my view for me to read what it was all about, so I had to use my elbows and knees and feet to wriggle clear until finally I got to the front of the crowd.
'And now I could see: it was a big poster, dramatic and striking. The top half was a picture of a turban, a cloak, trousers and shoes, but no person was inside them. Underneath was the message:
THE MAGNIFICENT MAGI IS COMING!
Don't miss the Magi, Supreme Master of Illusion Coming to your village next week. Two performances only.
'Well, everyone in the village wanted to go, but the tickets cost more than most people could afford. So you can imagine how pleased I was when Ah Chu's mother knocked on the door next day with some unexpected news.
'"Oh Tashi," she cried, "I've been wanting to thank you for saving my baby from that River Pirate, and now I've thought of a good way to do it. Can you guess? I have sold a pig and bought tickets for our two families to see the Magi!"
'We thought it was a wonderful idea. Magic was all we talked about during the six days of waiting. My friends and I borrowed all the books on magic from the school library – there were only four – and tried magic tricks out on our families.'
'Did you learn how to make a rabbit jump out of a hat?' asked Angus. 'Or–'
'Levitate?' asked Jack. 'Uncle Joe said he saw a man in India sitting on air for half an hour, reading a book.'
'That's impossible,' said Angus.
'Is not,' said Jack. 'Uncle Joe saw it with his own eyes!'
'Not everything in this world is what it seems,' Tashi said. 'On the evening of the show we were all so excited, we decided to meet in the square so we could walk up to the schoolhouse together. Oh, but the grown-ups were so slow! Lotus Blossom, Ah Chu and I ran ahead and waited, and ran ahead and waited so many times. When we finally got to the hall it was almost full, just a few single seats left here and there. I was so disappointed.
'Then I looked again. The front row was empty! It seems people were a bit nervous about sitting too close to a magician – who knew what he might do? He might turn them into a monkey! Quickly I waved to our families, hurry, hurry, down here! and held my breath until we were all safely seated.
'The lights went out, ping, and the empty stage was lit by an eerie green glow. The Magi appeared out of a puff of smoke and he held up his arms until the clapping died down. Suddenly it was so quiet. Even Ah Chu's little sister was hushed. The thrill in the air made my stomach rumble. What would the Magi do next?
'A peacock suddenly flew out of the green-underwater light, the silken sweep of its tail flashing before it vanished. I blinked – it all happened so fast, it made me wonder if I'd been dreaming.
'A sigh went up when a beautiful lady stepped out of a cage. She bowed and danced a few steps, before returning to it. A firecracker of blue smoke exploded, and when the cage doors opened again, a white tiger sprang out! I swung round to look at the Baron – for surely it was his tiger – but he looked as astonished as anyone.
'The tiger advanced to the front of the stage. It stood staring out at us with its strange cat eyes. No one moved. It was so close, I could see a drop of saliva on its whisker. Next to me, Favourite Aunt clutched her purse, ready to run.
'"Incanta!" the Magi sang softly.
'The tiger turned to face him. Whole seconds passed, and neither of them blinked. The tension was unbearable. And then, like a disobedient pet that suddenly decides to behave, the tiger padded towards him. The Magi slung a rope around its neck like a leash, still chanting the word, and led the tiger back to the cage.
'When it was safely locked up, the Magi asked for a person in the audience to help him with his next act. No hands went up. I could hear people squirming on their seats, and Cousin Wu had such a fit of coughing that he had to go out. But the Magi looked along the rows of seats until his eyes dropped down to mine. He nodded, "This boy here, I think. Will you come up and help me?"
'My mother gave me a little push and I stumbled up to the stage, feeling a bit awkward and shy. When the Magi asked my name (and the audience cheered!) I felt more comfortable. He tapped me on the head with his wand, spun me around three times and then, with a flourish, plucked a red rose from my ear. The audience gasped and cheered, but as I had turned to face him, I'd seen him slip the rose from his cuff.
'The Magi's eyes darkened, and locked on mine. He knew I had noticed. We held each other's gaze for a long moment until he dismissed me with a wave, "Thank you, Tashi."
'I lost track of the next few tricks. I know that a glass floated in the air by itself, a pitcher of water was filled many times over and never spilled, a solid ladder appeared out of nowhere. But it all wafted past in a blur, the wonder of it hardly touching me. I was still feeling the power and the menace of his eyes boring into mine. A shadow crept over me, and I felt a coldness deep inside my mind.
'Then a loud drum roll broke into my thoughts.
'"For my final illusion," the Magi said, "I would like another volunteer to join me on the stage – someone brave enough and ready to step into the unknown."
'Of course he couldn't have chosen better words to appeal to Lotus Blossom–'
'Oh yes!' cried Jack. 'I remember when she shouted at a snake, trying to scare it!'
Tashi nodded. 'She's brave, but she doesn't always think first before she acts.'
'You wouldn't have very long to think, though, if a snake was about to bite you,' Angus put in. 'So what did she do this time?'
'Well,' said Tashi, 'she put up her hand and waved frantically at the Magi. "That's me! Choose me!" she called.
'The Magi bowed and beckoned her to come onto the stage. Once she was beside him and had told him her name, he turned to the audience. "Now, with the help of a little hypnosis, we will find out how Lotus Blossom sees the world around her."
'He took off the glittering medal he wore on a golden chain around his neck and began to swing it before her eyes, murmuring to her all the while. He kept up the same slow rhythm, back and forth, back and forth, like a clock ticking. Lotus Blossom's shoulders slumped and her jaw dropped. She seemed to be asleep. She was in a trance!
'The Magi stepped back and said clearly, "You are the teacher of the village school in a classroom of children who are being very naughty. They are not listening to you and keep fooling around. How are you going to make them behave?"
'Lotus Blossom drew herself up and stood with her hands on her hips, shaking her head sadly. She was Teacher Pang! How could it be that she looked so exactly like our teacher! Then, in Mr Pang's voice, she said, "Hai Ping, what am I going to do with you? You are as bad as your father, you can never concentrate for more than two minutes at a time." The audience roared with laughter, but Lotus Blossom didn't hear them. She turned to her next pupils, the Wu brothers. "As for you boys, I see that you've been scribbling on the walls and throwing your books about again. Shame on you, I'll just have to–", but here the Magi stopped her by snapping his fingers. Perhaps he was a bit nervous about what she was going to say next. Anyway, Lotus Blossom jerked awake and became herself again. The audience clapped and cheered and gathered around her, laughing and congratulating her.
'On the way home, I questioned her about being hypnotised. She couldn't remember anything after telling the Magi her name. "Why? What did I do? What's wrong, Tashi?"
'"It's hard to explain," I told her. "It's just that – I feel very nervous about this man having such power over anyone. I think he could use it to cause harm."
'"But it was fun," she burst out, her lip pouting. "How do you know he's bad?"
'"I just know," I said.
'And that is why, the next night, I waited outside the schoolhouse after the second show and secretly followed the Magi when he left the building. The Baron was with him – he must have been waiting too – and together they walked back to the Baron's house where the Magi was staying.
'I knelt on a bench outside the Baron's library window, listening while the two men had a drink. Then, as the Baron drained his glass and made for the door, the Magi called him back. He was holding his golden chain again, swinging the medal before the Baron's eyes. I saw the Baron's shoulders twitch, as if he was trying to turn away, but then he stood still, only his head moving in time with the long, slow sway of the chain. Soon, the Baron slackened and slumped, just as Lotus Blossom had done.
'The Magi said to him, "You will do as I tell you and when we are finished and I snap my fingers, you will forget everything that has happened." His voice was slow and smooth, his words keeping time with the rhythm of the chain. Just watching them, I felt a weariness steal over me, as if I was sinking underwater.
'But at his next command, I nearly fell off my bench.
'"You will go to your bedchamber," the Magi told him, "and collect all your gold and jewels and the titles to your lands and properties and put them in this big wooden chest here. Then you will carry the chest to the bottom of your garden and hide it in your underground storeroom by the river. You will come back and go to bed and you will sleep soundly until I snap my fingers in the morning."
'I leapt up, pinching my cheeks to wake myself up, and crept silently after the Baron. And he did exactly as he had been told to do. He staggered down to the jetty with the heavy chest and put it on the table in the underground storeroom. The Magi followed him back to the house, and I followed the Magi.
'I waited until I saw a light go out in the Baron's bedroom, and then I walked home. What to do? My mind still felt oddly underwater. I took my time, feeling the fresh night air on my skin, stopping to watch the starlight glinting through the trees. I had a lot to think about.
'The next morning there was a great uproar. The Baron was charging through the village bellowing that he had been robbed. "All my jewels and gold and precious papers are gone!" he roared. "Who has done this to me? I'll find the thief, I'll tear him apart! How dare you!"
'He was glaring at the shopkeepers, who ran out of their doors to see what all the noise and fury was about. If the Baron had been a dragon, smoke would have been billowing out of his nose! He barged into Not Yet's shoemaking shop, and picked up a waiting boy by his collar. Shaking him, he didn't let go until the boy's father came running in to save him. "It couldn't have been my son!" he cried. "He was helping me all night with our sick cow. Why don't you look to that stranger in town – the Magi – instead of one of your honest tenants!"
'The Baron dropped the boy like a burning coal without even so much as a "sorry", swinging away on his heel. We heard later that he bailed up the Magi, who insisted that he was innocent and must be searched – and of course, nothing was found.
'Something had to be done, quickly. I called on Lotus Blossom and Ah Chu and told them the whole story. They couldn't believe me at first. "Come on," I said. "I'll show you."
'We carefully made our way through the Baron's gardens, down into the underground storeroom. The cold stone walls were damp with green slime, and moss grew at the back where water seeped in from the river. Ah Chu shivered. In the gloom, they saw the wooden chest was still there on the table, the lid open to reveal a small mountain of gleaming jewels. We peeped in, and gazed in wonder. There were ruby rings and emerald earrings, strings of pearls and necklaces of silver. Lotus Blossom stretched out her hand for a moment. It was so hard not to touch the little gold brooches of bees, dragons, birds, and serpents that looked like spell-bound animals in an enchanted forest. '"What do you think we should do?" asked Ah Chu.
'"I'm trying to decide," I said. I had to look away from the jewels so I could think. "On the one hand most of the gold was probably stolen by the Baron. On the other hand the Magi is certainly a very bad man and should be stopped. On the other hand–"
'"You've already used two hands," Ah Chu pointed out.
'"On the other hand," a silky voice slid into the conversation, "it might not be a very good idea to make an enemy of the Magi."
'We froze. There he was, calmly leaning against the doorpost at the top of the stairs that led down to the storeroom. We stood, gaping up at him.
'"We won't tell anyone," croaked Ah Chu. "We were just going."
'"No, I don't think I can allow you to do that," the Magi crooned.
'Two ropes were hanging inside the doorway. The Magi thoughtfully pulled on one of them. A small wooden door was set into the wall behind us. It slid up, exposing an iron grille with bars like a prison cell. Behind the grille, a huge alligator stared out at us. Its long mouth was filled with enormous pointed teeth. We yelped in fright and it snapped at us, its mouth yawning wide enough to swallow us whole.
'The Magi laughed, and his hand moved towards the second rope to pull up the grille.
'I had to stop him. "If you let that alligator out, how are you going to come down here and get that chest?"
'That took the smile off his face, I can tell you.
'"Yes, you didn't think of that, did you?" crowed Lotus Blossom. "Not so magnificent now, are you Magi? You great big alligatoring bully!"
Excerpted from Tashi and the Wicked Magician and Other Stories by Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg, Geoff Kelly. Copyright © 2014 Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsTashi and the Wicked Magician,
Tashi and the Burning House,
Tashi and the Orchid Thieves,
Tashi the Brave, Part One,
Part Two, Face to Face,
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