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The Amulet of Komondor
Adam Osterweil


FROM THE BOOK


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WE PLAY OUR FAVORITE FANTASY GAME

The English Golem arrived twenty minutes before recess. He lifted up a corner of the roof and peeked into Mr. O’s classroom, where I sat paralyzed by boredom. The beast was made of ice and stone, and snot dripped from his apelike nose.

“Joe, do something!” Katie demanded as all the kids except me screamed and jumped under their desks.

“Very funny —enough about my bad hair day already,” Mr. O said impatiently, oblivious to the giant creature that hovered over him. “Get back in your seats!”

The golem cracked off a giant section of roof and tossed it into the nearby trees. I tried to reach for my DragonSword, but the overwhelming boredom had fused my arms to the desk!

“Joe, what are you waiting for?” Katie pleaded, crouching behind me.

The golem grabbed Mr. O by the collar and lifted him up, emitting a gravelly laugh. Mr. O screamed when he saw the tremendous mouthful of crooked teeth.

“You tells me word dat have no vowels, and me not eat you,” the English Golem bellowed. “And dat means no y’s too.”

“‘Cwm’!” Mr. O responded, desperately trying to free himself from the golem’s clutches.

“‘Cwm’ has no vowels!”

“‘Cwm’ funny word. What it mean?” The golem scratched his hairy head.
“It’s a steep crater in a mountain,” Mr. O said nervously, swaying back and forth. “Now let me go!”

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“Har har! If you know dat, den you gud English teacher and you tasty,” the golem cackled, lifting Mr. O above his head.

I tried to reach my DragonSword with my mouth, but it was too late. The golem tossed Mr. O in the air and swallowed him in one gulp. Moments later the beast went cross-eyed and coughed until Mr. O’s tie popped out of his mouth and landed in a puddle of brown saliva. Then, sniffing the air, the golem set off to find another school and another tasty English teacher.

“Joe, move!” Katie said. “We’re going to get in trouble!”

I looked around the classroom. The roof was intact, Mr. O was still here, and all the students sat in groups playing Scrabble. My arms weren’t stuck. It had all been a daydream!

“Try to use some of the unusual words that I just went over,” Mr. O told the class. He always lets us play Scrabble on Friday before recess.

Katie and I threw a lot of words on the Scrabble board to make it look like we’d played. Then we took out our favorite game —DragonSteel.

“I’m gonna win the Red DragonEye from you today,” Katie vowed, shuffling her giant stack of cards.

“You’ll never get it,” I said, picking cards out of my pile. “I’m too good at defense.”

DragonSteel is a fantasy card game with Japanese-style artwork —all the cartoon characters have huge puppy-dog eyes, big spiky hair, and a tiny nose and mouth. The game is set in the magical land of Komondor, where a struggle for supreme power has raged for many years. The goal is to become more powerful by winning cards from other players. There are six types of cards: treasure, equipment, monsters, characters, spells, and amulet pieces.

The only way to win the game is to acquire all five pieces of the DragonSteel Amulet. The base of the amulet is a dragon’s head carved from steel, with four empty slots to hold the amulet gems —a red ruby and a blue diamond as the eyes, an orange sapphire in the shape of a breath of flame, and a black opal for a nostril. The company distributed only a few hundred cards representing each amulet piece, so it’s hard for anyone to win. After two years of nonstop playing with dozens of kids, Katie has four DragonSteel Amulet pieces and I have the remaining one.

“What are you two doing?” Mr. O asked, walking over to us. “Are you playing that card game again?”

“We’re done with Scrabble,” Katie explained, pointing to the board.

“Did you actually play any of these words?” Mr. O asked, eyeing the Scrabble board suspiciously. “Some of these don’t look real. What does TAXAR mean?”

“He’s a superhero that collects money for the government,” I said confidently.

Mr. O kept us in for recess. I didn’t get mad because I felt bad that the golem ate him earlier. Anyway, Mr. O was so busy grading essays that Katie and I snuck in a game of DragonSteel. “OK, I’m playing four cards,” I said, placing them face up on the table. “In front, the English Golem comboed with a Wand of Ice Shards. Behind him, Warrior Ignatia comboed with a DragonSword.”

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“Monsters and weapons —that’s a typical boy move,” Katie scoffed. “Well, I’m playing only three cards.” She slammed her cards dramatically on the table, which made Mr. O look up from his papers for a moment.

“Who’s that?” I asked, pointing to a card labeled “Michael Bottompockets.” It showed a picture of a masked boy wearing black clothing.

“He’s a boy thief. Only fifty of these cards exist in the whole world —I won it from my cousin Natalie, who won it from her friend from Australia. I’m comboing Michael Bottompockets with the Bag of the Grumpy Ancients and a Primitive Torch.”

“Bring it on,” I said confidently. What good were a bag and a torch against an armed golem?

“Ha! I comboed Michael with a magical bag, so he gets two unrestricted steals,” Katie said.

“That means I can automatically take any two of your cards, even ones in your stack.”
“No way!” I protested.

“It says so right here on the back of Michael’s card,” Katie said, pointing to the tiny instructions.

“That’s not fair!”

“I’m taking the wand for my first card,” she said, swiping my golem’s weapon. “And for my other card I want the Red DragonEye from your stack of cards. That’s the last amulet piece I need.”

“Forget it!” I said, way louder than I meant to. I looked cautiously up at Mr. O, but he was asleep at his desk. He must have tried to read my essay.

Katie reached for my stack of cards, but I yanked them away and held them above my head. She tickled me under my arm, making me drop all the cards into a heap on the floor. Then she grabbed the Red DragonEye and added it to her pile.

“Now I’m gonna melt your defenseless golem with my torch,” Katie said gleefully. She really knows how to rub it in.

“I’m not playing with you anymore,” I declared, piling up my remaining cards.

“Fine, I won the game anyway,” Katie gloated. “I have all five amulet cards now.”

“Yeah, whatever.” Katie carefully piled up the five cards —the Amulet Base in the shape of a dragon’s head, the Red DragonEye, the Blue DragonEye, the Orange DragonFlame, and finally, the Opal Nostril. Most kids don’t have even one of these cards. Most kids have never even seen one of these cards. I almost calmed down enough to be a little proud of Katie. After all, my girlfriend could be the first kid to have pieced together the amulet. I didn’t mind the sound of that too much.

Then it happened. The glowing red words “GO TO THE MALL LATER” magically appeared on the top card in Katie’s hand. Before I could examine the card closely, it changed back into the Opal Nostril.
Katie and I gave each other a confused look while Mr. O snored.

“They probably want us to buy more DragonSteel cards or something,” I said. “It’s just a marketing trick.”

We wondered about this for a while. Then we packed up all our stuff, shut off the lights, and went outside for the rest of recess.

 

 

From The Amulet of Komondor
Copyright © 2003 by Adam Osterweil
Illustration copyright © 2003 by Peter Thorpe
All rights reserved

 
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