A Spot of Trouble
An innocent piece of Mundane Snail Mail has provoked the dreaded Demon Jupiter to hurl his Red Spot at the magical land of Xanth. As the dire Dot draws closer, the unwelcome ordeal of saving the enchanted realm falls to Umlaut, an unlikely lad with an unknown past and an uncertain future. With a handful of colorful companions at his side, Umlaut must unravel a high-stakes intergalactic puzzle, uncover the secret of his mysterious past, and learn to understand the urgings of his own heart.
It might have been the merest chance that brought Umlaut to Castle Zombie that morning and launched him on a harrowing adventure. But in the magical land of Xanth, things are seldom left to chance, and adventures lurk around every corner.
An unassuming young man with a uncanny knack for attracting lovely young ladies and an uncommon talent for emulating anyone he wished, Umlaut was forced to flee a flock of overly friendly females by disguising himself as a Zombie girl. In his haste to find a hiding place, he found himself face-to-face with a dreadful dragon and feared he would soon meet his end. But in Xanth, things are seldom exactly as they seem, and he soon discovered that the dragon was really a sinuous female sea serpent named Sesame, with a gift similar to his own, who had become accidentally entrapped in the Castle's dungeon.
When the two happen upon a packet of mail from Earth delivered by mischance to the Zombie King, they inadvertently set in motion a sinister scheme that could spell the end of Xanth. A letter they forward to the Demon Jupiter unexpectedly enrages him, causing him to send his own Red Spot hurtling toward Xanth. Soon everything is up in a heaval, for no one knows how to avert this interplanetary peril. Even the Good Magician Humfrey is baffled, for some strange force has obscured the future. In desperation, he instructs Umlaut and Sesame to deliver the remaining letters to their far-flung recipients, in the faint hope that this may somehow stop the Spot.
As they set out on their appointed rounds, Umlaut and Sesame are soon joined by two feline friends, Jenny Elf's companion, Sammy Cat, and a lovely, prescient creature named Claire Voyant who can sometimes see the future. Beguiled and bedeviled by the delicious Demoness Metria, who uses her shapely assets to distract him from his goal, Umlaut leads his allies on an unforgettable odyssey to the farthest reaches of the enchanted realm, from the submicroscopic Nth Moon of Ida, and the home of all dreams and nightmares, to the unmagical land of Euphoria, where he meets a sweet and sprightly young girl named Surprise who captures his heart. But before Umlaut can complete his quest and return to his beloved, he must unravel the unfathomable puzzle of his own existence, which is somehow inextricably entwined with the fate of Xanth.
A satisfyingly suspenseful tale filled with mystery, magic, and merriment, Up in a Heaval is exciting and entertaining fantasy adventure from the pen of a master storyteller.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
About the Author
Piers Anthony is one of the world's most prolific and popular fantasy authors and a New York Times bestseller twenty-one times over. His Xanth novels, including Esrever Doom, Luck of the Draw, and Well-Tempered Clavicle, have been read and loved by millions of readers around the world. While he is best known for his science fiction and fantasy, Anthony incredibly versatile, having also written several novels in other genres, including historical fiction and horror. He lives in Central Florida.
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It all started, others agreed later, with Umlaut. Because he wasn't what he seemed to be. His talent was emulation, which was mostly a matter of causing others to see him as he represented himself to be, to a degree. But it might as well have been troublE with a capital E, because of the mischief it led to. It was the teenth of the month, and all the teens were out, but that was only the setting.
At the moment Umlaut was pretending to be a seventeen-year-old girl. The age was right, but not the gender. He was doing it to escape the attention of a real girl who had taken an unwholesome fancy to him. In fact she was chasing him. That might have been all right, for Sherry was pretty enough, except for her talent. That was in her kisses: They were sweeter than wine. Which was fine, up to a point. Unfortunately her first kiss made him feel so pleasant that he wanted more, and three made him tipsy, and last time he had awakened next morning with a dreadful hangover and no memory of the date. But Sherry's father had warned him that if he did it again, he'd have to marry her. That might not have been so bad, except that what good was an experience if he couldn't remember it? So he was trying to take it easy, at least until he figured out whether he really wanted to marry a sixteen-year-old girl just yet. She thought he was strong, handsome, and suitable; now he regretted emulating her ideal man quite so thoroughly. It would be impossible to do it continuously, and what would happen when she found out how dully ordinary he really was?
Umlaut rounded a bend and spied a group of teenagers having a party. That seemed ideal; he could merge with them and conceal himself until Sherry gave up the chase. Then he could sneak away, free, and return to his normal, somewhat inadequate self.
He ran up to them, hastily adjusting his emulation to make him seem like one of them. "Sorry I got lost," he said somewhat breathlessly. "What's up?"
"We just got a package of Wetti shirts," the tallest and handsomest boy replied. "We traded a rock hound for them."
"Don't you remember? We found it in the old rock mine last week. Friendly dog made of stone."
"Oh, sure," Umlaut said. Of course he didn't remember, because he hadn't been part of this group. Then, to hide his ignorance, he changed the subject. "What are Wetti shirts?"
"We're not sure, but they say they're a lot of fun for girls to wear and great for contests. So why don't you be the first? Put one on." He shoved the package at Umlaut. Of course he took Umlaut for a girl, because that was what he was emulating.
At that point Sherry rounded the turn and ran up. She was breathing hard with the effort. She was a fairly full-figured girl, and several of the boys were looking with interest. "Have you seen Umlaut?" she panted.
"A strong, handsome, suitable boy, running down this path." She paused for a deeper breath, straining a shirt button or two in the process, along with a male eyeball or two.
"No, only another —"
"Try a Wetti shirt," Umlaut said quickly, shoving the package at her. "They're great fun for girls and contests."
"Now wait," the boy protested. "She's not one of us."
That got Sherry's dander up. The dander immediately flew off in search of a flock of deese, but that didn't stop Sherry. She grabbed the boy by a lapel and planted a kiss on his face. "You were saying?" she demanded, well knowing her power.
The boy looked pleasantly dazed, as if he had just downed a glass of something intoxicatingly sweet. "She's one of us," he decided.
Sherry took a shirt from the package and put it on over her blouse. Suddenly a wash of water fell on her, making her scream pleasantly. The new shirt turned transparent and clung to her body, which seemed about twice as fully formed as before. "I like it," she said. "Who else is in this contest?"
"Contest?" the boy asked, his eyes locked to her front profile. So were the eyes of the other boys in the group, and some of the girls, though there might have been a difference in the girls' expressions.
"The shirt is for contests," she reminded him. "How can I win, if nobody else competes?"
"This girl, what's her name," the boy said, prying his eyes away and turning to Umlaut.
Oops. Umlaut couldn't put on one of those shirts. Emulation had its limits, and it would be shattered if his top half got transparently wet. Then the teens would all know he was an impostor, and Sherry would nab him. All she had to do was plant one sweet kiss on him, and he'd linger for another and be lost. Next morning he'd wake up with a headache and married. He simply wasn't ready for that, apart from the problem of fooling her. Because Sherry, however sweet her kisses and full her body, was not his idea of the perfect wife. Anyway, he was too young to marry.
He bolted. "Hey!" the boy cried. In a moment all of them were chasing him.
Now he was in twice as much trouble as before. Where could he go to escape?
He came up on a young woman who was walking in the same direction. "Uh, hello," he said somewhat breathlessly.
She turned to face him. She had an explorer's cap and a name tag saying Miss Guide. "May I help you?"
"Yes! Please tell me where I can escape a group of pursuing teens!"
"Take the left fork," she said. "Though you are welcome to dally a bit."
"Thank you!" He ran on ahead of her. Belatedly he wondered why she might want to dally with another girl.
But before he found a fork, he came up on another young woman. From behind she had a remarkable figure, and from before also, when he passed her. Her name tag said Miss In Form. "Is the left fork the one?" he gasped.
"In Dubitably," she agreed.
"Thanks!" He ran on.
He overhauled a third young woman, this one wearing a many-feathered bonnet. Her name tag said Miss Chief.
"Is the —?" he started.
"Oh, yes," she agreed. "You'll make a fine Indian maiden."
"Thanks!" He ran on. But something was nagging one corner of his mind. Those young women — if their name tags were literal, they might not be the best sources of information. Misguide, Misinform, Mischief ...
Then he spied a fork in the path. The left fork was marked CONTEST BEACH and the right fork CASTLE ZOMBIE. Ordinarily Umlaut would have preferred the left, especially if he could have watched all the girls in the group donning Wetti shirts for the contest. But at the moment the right fork seemed better. Nobody much who wasn't a zombie went there.
Sure enough, the pursuit soon languished. Umlaut knew the teens wouldn't be too disappointed, because Sherry liked to kiss people, especially boys. But just in case any of the girls followed, he kept running. He let his emulation lapse; he'd run by the castle and then go home.
He almost collided with a group of teen zombie girls. He hadn't realized that zombies had teens, but of course they would be out today if they existed.
"Ooooz, ughsh!" one cried. "A live bzoy!"
"Who caresz?" another demanded. "He'z male."
"Say, yesh," a third said. "Letz kisz him!"
For some reason that escaped him at the moment, Umlaut did not want to be kissed by a group of zombie girlz. So he quickly refurbished his emulation. "I'm notz a boy," he protested. "I'm anozer zombie girzl."
"Oh, zo you are," the second girl said, disappointed. "Whatz you got?"
"Wetti shirts," Umlaut said, realizing that he still carried the package. "They're good for girls in contests."
"Letz try them!" the first girl said.
The zombies quickly took the remaining shirts and put them on. In a moment all were thoroughly soaked, their upper bodies showing to disadvantage. What looked great on live girls was somewhat sordid on zombie girls.
"Ooooz, ughsh!" they exclaimed, quickly appreciating that fact. "We look awzful!"
They tried to remove the shirts, but the wet things clung, tangling with the regular clothing underneath, so that the effect became worse. The girls were screaming with frustration as bits of cloth tore and dangled.
"What's going on here?" It was an irate black girl who appeared to be fully alive.
"Wetzi shirs," a zombie girl explained. "Contezt."
"A wet T-shirt contest? Zombies have no business getting into that. Who put you up to this nonsense?"
"Zhee did!" the girls said, pointing to Umlaut.
More mischief! Umlaut tried to shrink away but couldn't think of a suitable emulation on the spur of the moment; the spur merely jabbed him uncomfortably.
The black girl turned on Umlaut, a small black cloud forming over her head. "I'll deal with you later," she said menacingly. "For now, go muck out the dungeon."
Umlaut decided not to argue; he was in enough trouble already. This was evidently a person of authority. He hurried toward the castle.
He had expected something pretty dingy. He had underestimated the case. Castle Zombie up close was a festering ruin of an edifice. The moat was covered with sludge, and there was slime on the worn stones. The drawbridge was rotten and about to collapse. He did not want to try to cross over it.
"Got a problem?" It was a young man, fully alive.
Umlaut decided to stick with his zombie girl emulation. "Who zhou?"
The man smiled. "I am Justin Tree, master of Castle Zombie. You don't recognize me?"
Umlaut thought fast. "Bad eyzs."
"Of course; I should have realized. And you can't see the bridge clearly enough to cross."
"Yez. I waz zent to muck the dunzeon."
"Oh, yes, Breanna has been meaning to assign a crew for that. The dragon manure is accumulating. Don't be concerned; that bridge is stronger than it looks. Just walk across and take the first stairway down. You'll find a spading fork at the dungeon entrance."
"Zank youz." Umlaut walked cautiously across, and the bridge did turn out to be solid enough.
So the man was Justin Tree. Umlaut had heard of him. He had married a Black Wave girl a year or so back. That would be the one who had sent him here: Breanna of the Black Wave. They had taken over the castle after the original zombie master had retired. It looked as if they still had a lot of cleaning up to do.
He found the stairway down, as slimy as the rest of it. He made his way below. Now he got nervous: What was this about a dragon? A dungeon was not his idea of fun, and a dungeon and a dragon were definitely worth avoiding. But the only way out was back past the master of the castle. So he went on.
There was the spading fork. He picked it up. If the dragon attacked, maybe he could use the fork to warn it back. That didn't seem very promising, but what else was there? Maybe he could simply duck into a small, dark passage and hide from it. He might emulate an ogre, but that would set back only a medium to small dragon.
He walked on through cobwebbed passages and chambers, his eyes adjusting to the gloom. It wasn't pitch dark so much as intensely dim, with wan weak beams of light seeping through crevices in the walls. This dungeon region was huge; he could get lost in it. So he went back to the foot of the stairway, then advanced again, this time scraping a line with a tine of the fork. That would be his sure trail back. It was easier to make a good mark, one that would show up in the dusky recesses, if he walked backward and held it down behind his progress.
It got more difficult, because a layer of mucky manure was building up, thickening as he progressed. He would have a big job to do, once he had his route marked. Where was he supposed to put all this stuff? The odor was awful.
He bumped into something. Startled, he turned. There was a monstrous snout. "The dragon!" he cried and scrambled to escape. But his feet slipped on the solidified stench, and he fell on his rear and slid into a wall. He was done for.
After a moment he realized two things: His bottom was sore from the fall, and the dragon hadn't eaten him. He climbed to his feet, rubbing his soiled posterior. "Ooo, that smarts," he said.
The dragon moved. The huge nose nudged a shelf Umlaut hadn't seen before, and a bottle fell off and rolled toward him. He stooped to pick it up. The crude label said HEALING.
Could that be true? If so, by what mischance had the monster happened to knock that particular bottle down at this time? Good fortune had never been Umlaut's forte.
He decided to try it. He opened the bottle, poured a drop of goo on his hand, and slid the hand down inside his pants to smear the stuff on his rear. Immediately he felt its benefit; not only did his bottom stop smarting, it suddenly felt great. He had gotten a bit tired from the constant bending and pressing on the fork; now his energy had been restored. It truly was healing elixir.
But the mystery remained: How had what he needed been so providently presented to him — by the action of a dragon? Umlaut did not have a lot of belief in coincidences, at least not favorable ones. Normally they just got him into deeper trouble.
Could the dragon have done it intentionally? That seemed incredible, but added to the fact that the creature had not attacked when it could have, it was a possibility. "Did you do that on purpose?" he inquired.
The huge head nodded.
Still, that was not absolute proof. "Are you going to gobble me up as soon as I turn my back on you?"
The snout moved sidewise in a ponderous no gesture.
This was becoming more interesting. "Do you understand my words?"
The head nodded.
"What is two plus one?"
The head bobbed three times.
"You're intelligent!" Umlaut exclaimed.
The dragon hesitated.
"For an animal," Umlaut amended.
The head nodded.
"So you understand me and mean me no harm?"
"Well, that's fine, because I have come here to muck out your stall. Do you happen to know where I can dump the stuff?"
The dragon turned and slithered away. Umlaut hesitated, then decided that it was best to trust the creature, since he could not get the job done otherwise. He followed.
The dragon led him to a large chamber with a hole in the floor. "An oubliette!" Umlaut said. "Dump it down there?"
The dragon nodded.
"But there's a lot of this stuff. Won't it eventually fill up the oubliette?"
The head shook no.
"Magic? Or fast composting?"
That seemed to be the case. At any rate, the dragon nodded.
"Well, I'd better get started," Umlaut said. "I think I'll need more than a fork, though."
The dragon slithered to another chamber, leading him to a two-wheeled cart. That would help.
Umlaut worked. Soon he forgot how he had come here and just focused on the job. It did need to be done, and no one else was here to do it. He started with the chambers closest to the oubliette and worked slowly outward.
Then the dragon nudged him. Umlaut jumped; he had almost forgotten the creature's presence, though the dragon was obviously the source of all this manure. "Something wrong?" he asked.
The dragon made a sidewise motion with its snout, then slithered away. Umlaut followed. They went to the foot of the stairs. Breanna of the Black Wave stood there, holding a burning torch. "I think there's been a mistake," she said. "We don't have any record of a zombie girl of your description, and the zombies don't know you." She raised the torch. "In fact you don't look like a zombie at all — or a girl."
Oops. Umlaut had let his emulation lapse again. Did it matter? "I'm a living boy named Umlaut," he said. "I got caught up in things."
"Why didn't you protest when I sent you to the dungeon? I thought you were a misbehaving zombie girl."
"It was easier just to go."
She glanced at the dragon. "I see you are getting along well enough with Drivel."
"Drivel Dragon? That's his name?"
"Zombies tend to have descriptive names. He drools."
"I hadn't noticed."
"Well, come on. We'll get you cleaned up and give you supper and a bed for the night, and you can go on your way in the morning with our apology for the misunderstanding."
Umlaut looked at the dragon. "What about Drivel?"
"He won't fit in the castle. He was here when we took over. We feed him and let him be."
"This is not a vicious or stupid creature. Why is he confined?"
"We don't know. The Zombie Master didn't mention him."
Umlaut made what he suspected was a foolish decision. "Thanks, no thanks. I'll stay down here with him. The job's a long way from being done."
"But it's not your job! I mean to get up a cleanup crew, in due course. It's just taking us time to catch up on everything."
"Well, I'll help you catch up. Maybe I can find out why Drivel was locked in here."
"You can't find out! There are no records of him. We just have to accept what is."
Umlaut knew better but just had to make an issue. "I don't know much about you, Breanna of the Black Wave, but from what I heard, you never put up with 'what is' before."
The woman looked stunned. "You're right! I've become part of the status quo. I'm ashamed."
Umlaut was surprised by her change. "I guess we all get caught up in things."
"For sure! You really want to stay down here?"
"Yes. And try to find out what is the case with Drivel. He's certainly not violent."
"I'll bring your food right down." She handed him the torch, turned, and mounted the steps.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Up in a Heaval"
Copyright © 2002 Piers Anthony Jacob.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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
1 - Emulation,
2 - Letters,
3 - Challenges,
4 - Moons of Ida,
5 - Zombie World,
6 - SoufflÉ Serpent,
7 - Sidestepping,
8 - Isle of Cats,
9 - Submarine Sand Witch,
10 - Fauns & Nymphs,
11 - Surprise,
12 - Grossclout,
13 - Ogrets,
14 - Com Pewter,
15 - Six Eager Girls,
16 - Goblin Mountain,
17 - Dream Realm,
18 - Consequences,
19 - Rorrim,
20 - Decisions,
Tor Books by Piers Anthony,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
dat book chill, not a d7 yannoo?
As usual a book filled with puns, dry humor and just plain wonderfulness. If you have never read one of Mr. Anthony's books read this one.
This was one of the best Xanth novels ever! I think Piers just keeps getting better. He brings in new characters yet still visits older characters! This book had me laughing hysterically for the entire 2hours I was reading it.I couldn't put it down!
Let's face it. Piers Anthony is one of the best writers out there. His novels bring you to a magical place full of wonder, puns, myths, and querky humor. If you start one of his books, you will be unable to put it down. I agree with the other reviewer. You should really read some of his earlier work to be able to understand the history and fully enjoy his novels.
Okay, lets face it, it takes talent to keep a series interesting enough to write 26 and still have an audience. This one follows the highly interesting, complex theme of big 'D' Demons. One of the best climaxes of the Xanth series. However, if you haven't read most of the books that come before it and at least The Source of Magic, Yon Ill Wind, and Swell Foop, it will be hard to follow.
Mundane snail mail ending up in Xanth is forwarded to Demon Jupiter. Irate by what he receives, Demon Jupiter hurls his dreaded red spot at Demon Earth. If he throws a strike, Xanth will be destroyed. Umlaut, who now knows that all good deeds including forwarding snail mail leads to adventure, learns from the Good Magician that he must deliver the remaining mundane mail to hope to avert the disaster he started. Umlaut accompanied by his pals Sesame Snake and Sammy Cat begin the treacherous trek to save Xanth by delivering the mail even as other demons try to manipulate his raging hormones. The twenty-sixth Xanth tale (Grafton has a few to catch up) is the usual pun per line tale that shows Mr. Anthony has no piers when it comes to irreverent ¿adult conspiracy¿ humor that sends readers diving off the dock into a wild fantasy play on the English language. The story line is typical of the Xanth tales, but during the Myth-Adventures with no Asprin for pain relief, many of the participants in the glory of Xanth make an appearance. Though newcomers might struggle in the realm of punning, fans will delight in this comic endeavor as Mr. Anthony shows his usual amusing cat tail of a tale Harriet Klausner