In the kingdom of Dragon’s Launch, young Denrikk’s aspirations of becoming a knight are dashed when he is instead apprenticed to the king’s fool. Embarrassed and devastated that his new position will ruin all hopes of winning the hand of the girl he loves–the princess Alendria– Denrikk reluctantly begins training under his new master, Fumbles, the king’s aging fool. He quickly learns, however, that being a fool in Dragon’s Launch is much more than juggling and laughing like a hyena.
But when a shocking murder within the castle walls shakes the palace, all evidence points toward Denrikk. Now, with his new skills, a bit of luck, and the help of some unlikely friends, the fool’s apprentice must race to prove his innocence, all while evading capture.
Kelly Hess is the author of the BlackMyst Trilogy. Kelly grew up with a love of reading science fiction and fantasy which inspired him to write his own books for young readers. He lives in Vacaville, California with his wife and son where he is currently working on his next adventure.
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Fumbles sat at a table in the center of the room, wearing a
bright red tunic. His hat lay crumpled in a ball in front of him
leaving his head a great tangle of sloppy graying hair. Denrikk
noted how aged the fool appeared. Beside the hat lay a leather
pouch and a large basket of red apples. Two additional apples
sat apart from the others on the edge of the table. Fumbles
looked up at Denrikk. “Ah, Blueberry, you’re right on time.
Punctuality, I like that.”
“Those are your things, I presume.” He waved a hand.
“Bring them here.”
Denrikk walked to him and laid his sack and his bow on
the table. The fool pulled the bag closer and presumptuously
began digging inside.
Denrikk watched silently as Fumbles pulled out all of his
clothing, one piece at a time, and tossed them onto the floor
behind him. “Boring. Boring. Drab. Awful. Boring.”
When all of Denrikk’s clothes had been scattered about the
floor, Fumbles looked up at him. “Dreadful.” He cringed. “I’ll
speak to the seamstress about crafting you some more suitable
attire.” Again, the fool bent and stuck his head into the sack.
“Is that everything? Well, what have we here?” He reached
inside and pulled out Denrikk’s knife.
“Know how to use this?” he asked, pulling the blade from
Denrikk nodded. “Yes, sir.”
The fool eyed the knife, balancing it deftly on one finger.
“It doesn’t seem very good for throwing.”
“Throwing?” Denrikk said.
“Yes, throwing. You won’t be gutting pigs, Blueberry. If you
use a knife, you’ll be throwing it.”
“Throwing it at what, sir?”
The fool looked up. “Whatever needs a knife stuck in it.”
He reached back into the sack and retrieved Denrikk’s book.
It was ragged and stained, the only book Denrikk had ever
owned. It was a simple tale about a knight who slayed a
dragon. He’d read it countless times.
“So, you can read?” Fumbles said, thumbing through the pages.
“Yes, sir,” Denrikk said. “My father taught me when I was
just a boy.”
“Excellent.” Fumbles set the book down. “I’ll be sure to
find you something interesting to read.”
The fool rested back in his chair and looked at Denrikk as
if sizing him up. “So, what else can you do?”
Denrikk smiled, for his skills were many. “I’m accomplished
with a sword, a fair jouster, I’m very good at hand
fighting, but archery is probably—”
“And how’s your juggling?” The fool stared at him dumbly.
Denrikk’s jaw dropped. “Juggling?”
The days that followed, if not quite happy ones, were at
least bearable. Denrikk continued to demolish fruit all over
the palace, but his juggling did improve. Before long he was
able to keep two apples twirling in the air for up to a minute
before, plunk plunk, he left two piles of applesauce in his wake.
One day, after losing two more apples to the unyielding
ground, a cry rose up from behind him. “Stop that!” came
the ringing voice of Mistress Dunsworth, the kitchen master.
“Stop right there!”
Denrikk turned and waited for the stern woman to
approach. “I don’t know what grievance you carry against
edible fruit,” she barked, “but by my estimate, you’ve destroyed
enough apples to feed the entire kingdom. Whatever wrong
these helpless victims have done you, certainly your vengeance
has been carried out by now!”
“I’m sorry, mistress, but my master has instructed me to
practice my juggling during all waking hours.”
“Yes, mistress.” Denrikk nodded. “Fumbles, the fool.”
“Hmmpf,” she grunted, and without another word she
stormed off in the direction of Fumbles’s tower. Denrikk
followed after her, curious to hear the exchange.
“Is there nothing else that can be juggled that won’t end up
attracting flies?” Dunsworth was saying as Denrikk entered the
tower. “Couldn’t the boy throw balls in the air just as easily?”
“Yes,” Fumbles reclined in his chair leisurely. “Too easily
in fact,” he said. “Apples are imperfect. I need him to get
used to handling objects that aren’t perfectly balanced the
way balls are.”
“Hmmpf.” Dunsworth turned and exited the tower, casting
a shrewd eye on Denrikk as she passed.
Fumbles smiled. “Well, you’ve got her in a rumple, haven’t
“I’m sorry, sir,” Denrikk said. “But I am improving. I’ve
only dropped around twenty so far today.”
Fumbles waved a hand. “Don’t worry. Apples are the king’s
favorite food. He has acres of trees. There’s no risk of an apple
shortage any time soon.”
A moment later, the front door of the tower slammed open
and Mistress Dunsworth stomped back inside.
Denrikk sighed. “Please, call me Denrikk. It’s my true name.”
“It will be my honor, friend Denrikk,” the prince proclaimed.
Denrikk rolled his eyes. Did royalty always speak
And the prince didn’t stop there. Kaleb spewed forth a
constant and continuous stream of commentary and questions
for the next several hours.
By the time the sun was high in the sky and they had stopped
to water their horses, Kaleb had told Denrikk all there was to
know about Falcon’s Ridge and the steadily growing rebellion
there. Kaleb was of the obvious opinion that the people rising
against the kingdom were ungrateful peasants who couldn’t
understand the intricacies of running a kingdom.
Falcon’s Ridge had, in recent years, ended a long-going and
costly war with Lion’s Hollow and in order to rebuild and
maintain the kingdom, King Weston had sharply raised taxes
on his people. With no foreseeable relief in sight, some in the
kingdom had begun to openly rebel against the royalty.
“They simply will not concede that in difficult times, sacrifices
must be made,” Kaleb complained to Denrikk as they
stretched their legs during the short respite from travel.
“What exactly have you sacrificed?” Denrikk asked the
“Pardon me?” Kaleb appeared stunned by the bold question.
“You said that sacrifices must be made,” Denrikk reminded
him. “What sacrifices have you made?”
“Denrikk, we are of noble birth. We are not serfs,” Kaleb
scoffed. “It has forever been the burden of the common man to
provide for the kingdom that protects his family and his land.
But if you must know, several of our estates in the eastern hills
have fallen into disrepair. And we have had to cancel two, no
three, state dinners with foreign ambassadors so as to avoid
the appearance of squandering.”
“To avoid the appearance of squandering,” Denrikk
repeated Kaleb’s words back to him. “How many actual meals
have your people had to skip because they cannot afford to
put food on their tables?”
Kaleb raised his chin. “Of course we sacrifice in different
ways, but we all endure our hardships.”
Denrikk shook his head. “Somehow, I think a man who
hasn’t eaten in days wouldn’t consider your eastern estates
falling into disrepair as much of a hardship.”